The age of Raf
On entering Hotel National des Invalides, the grand and enormous Dior show space, the audience was greeted with gigantic mirrored spheres that hung from the ceiling and grew out of the floor, a dreamscape that perfectly encapsulated the notions of Surrealism and Pop Art – twin themes, as well as many other ideas, in this collection.
This was only Raf Simons’ second ready-to-wear collection for the house; it is less than a year since Dior announced that he would take the creative reins, which is worth bearing in mind when you consider how powerfully he has asserted his imprint on the brand, how unmistakably ‘Raf’ Dior now is.
The Rafisms, then, were all here: a new variation on the ‘Bar’ jacket, the elegant, super-slim, pronounced-at-the-hip jacket that he brought into the fashion world not even six months ago, was reinterpreted here in Dior’s houndstooth, or as a wool bustier. The asymmetric layers he showed in his couture collection were reimagined here in sylph-like dresses with floating panels of shine and opaque, then delicately embroidered with surrealist motifs – also used on the world’s most sophisticatedly decadent handpainted and embroidered long skin-hugging boots. The unmistakable Dior coats – one in bright red was particularly fabulous – that swing out from the shoulder. The inimitable Raf trousersuit, this time worn with outsized masculine trousers, equally immaculately conceived.
‘This collection is more connected to the passions we share,’ said Simons in his show notes of his ‘relationship’ with Dior. ‘Like a real interest in art – Christian Dior started his career as a gallerist and represented both Dali and Giacometti early on. The connection to certain periods of time is also significant, his obsession with the Belle Epoque in his case, the Mid-Century modern in mine. Here the connections made are important, the very idea of them rather than what they are; the attraction and obsession is the significant part.’
It must be heaven for Raf Simons to be able to indulge his passion for art with the full force of the Dior atelier behind him – and, boy, did he make that point. Dior, said the show notes, had worked in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, using Warhol’s early 1950s hand-drawn work. Rendered in surreal embroideries, the fragility of those flowers and eyes, fragments of colour and images of shoes (also depicted on the new Oxford bags), were a thing to behold. But it was also good that Raf had asked the atelier to explore knitwear – bold in black and white with exaggerated cable tracks running the full length of a dress – it could only have been made in a couture atelier. And although some of the crochet pieces over skirts might look bulky on anyone other than a model, at least this showed Raf exploring his more avant-garde roots.
He called it a personal scrapbook of ideas, but surely this was the most rigorous scrapbook ever seen