Decked out in a lavish sea of flowers, real as well as fake, the Dior tent behind the Musée Rodin was a jungle of impressions. There was a slightly eerie atmosphere in the room, helped along by the rather alarming music played while guests were being seated. It was a foreshadowing of a collection devoted to a kind of savage grace, which played with the contrasts between real and unreal, and new and old. The symphony that opened the show effortlessly morphed into a techno track, signifying an amalgamation of the old and the new, while a voice whispered, 'Give me your love so I can kill.' Like a lot of things in the collection, it was a paradox planted to make you ponder, wonder, and open your eyes.
Raf Simons is equipped with one of those genius high-voltage brains, which constantly balances between being a blessing or a curse for him. How many leitmotifs can a collection hold, and will people understand his intellectual intentions? Had it not been for the graciously detailed show notes, most guests at Friday’s Dior show probably wouldn’t have figured out Simons’ idea of ‘Trans Dior’, a model divided into the three concepts of ‘traveller’, ‘transformer’, and ‘transporter’, each representing a different type of Dior woman. This of course begs the question: does an editor, a buyer or a customer have to understand a collection in order to like it? The answer is no, but for a collection constructed of such loud elements as this one, it’s not necessarily as easy as simply liking it. Because the thing is, wearing it will inevitably become something of a conversation starter. Why do you have badges and insignia on your little sky blue jacket? Why is your dress sliced up into bouncy panels like a lantern? Why does it read ‘the ultraviolet mouth’ under your arse on your pink floral dress? If you want to wear Dior, you better come prepared.
And yet, über-houses like Dior have such strong brand values that no matter what words, logos and symbols they put on a garment, the masses will gladly parade it around the street style circus without really knowing what it means. In that sense, Simons’ collection was clever. (Well, it was clever in all senses, but also commercially so.) What made it a tough nut to crack was the multitude of directions it seemed to embrace, from the deconstructed tailoring of cut-up jackets to the asymmetrical layering of pleated skirts or the silver jacquard prom dresses that featured in the finale. Did it look good? Yes, it did. But it probably looked even better in the omniscient eyes of Mr Simons.