Dispatches from Paris: Dior & Chalayan

Dior’s Explosive New Energy and Chalayan’s Layers of Space

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

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The clothes, the bags, the designer

There’s no stopping Raf Simons now. Not that there ever was. But if a collection was ever going to catapult his talent to the forefront of Paris fashion, this was it. Simons has been whittling away at Dior since he began, carving out his own signature, making those archives his own. And now he owns Dior – not the other way around. This is a designer at his best when he pulls all his creative strength into making ‘modern’ clothes – by that I mean strict, straight lines, bold pops of colour, impeccably refined cuts and ultra stripped-back silhouettes. Leaving the ultra-feminine, grand gestures of ball gowns and Dior romance behind him, it was as if he’d decided to come to work armed with a scalpel, cut new ground, scythe his way forward, defiantly so.

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In the programme notes, he put it like this: ‘I wanted to propose a new woman with power and energy. I wanted to pursue powerful tailoring, to offer another reality, another function. This season is more about the pace of the city. I’m attracted to the urban world.’ Long lean coats were corset-laced with thick white laces that resembled those on a football boot – their sportiness echoed in the footwear which took the form of an articulated high-heeled trainer in contrasting bright shades of rubber. Strict single-breasted trouser suits marched past at a pace, in claret or green, the models carrying an equally bright coat over one arm. Then came power-punch layered dresses – one slim emerald green dress, say, worn under an electric pink cocktail dress, or sunflower yellow over powder pink – all spare, save a small floral crystal arrangement on the thigh. Amid the dynamic slugs of colour, came a series of razor-sharp pinstripes in navy and charcoal that spliced masculine with feminine and showed off the angular lines of Raf’s by-now-signature double-breasted jackets. A final hammering home of Simons’ exploding confidence came in the form of cocktail dresses cut from a glossy quilted synthetic – possibly designed with magazine covers in mind rather than the red carpet. Although any bold young actress stepping out in Dior – Raf’s New Dior – would most certainly steal the limelight.

Hussein Chalayan wants to be known for his most important pieces. And do you know what he thinks they are? Not his show pieces that always, without fail, appear at the end of his show to demonstrate his full conceptual powers and incomparable skill, no. It’s his tailoring – his quiet, refined, elegant, easy and beautifully tailored coats, jackets, trousers and skirts that always kick off the proceedings. It’s a frustration of his because, post show, all anyone wants to know about is the sensational show pieces that this season came in the form of long organza columns decorated with false nails – that’s right, acrylic nails, applied in colour-coordinated patterns of black and white or lurid, vibrant shades. These were followed by free and floaty organza dresses that appeared to have been clawed at by said nails, leaving pristinely peeled away layers that revealed glossy shards of colour beneath. That’s Chalayan’s humour at work – another trait of his that few care to pick up on. Although the starting point came not from these plastic talons but from something altogether more cerebral: He had made a small model of his studio and imagined going from A to Z through the walls – organza represented glass, texture denoted the walls, and drape signified the abstract ‘shrinkage’ of that space – layers of space literally collapsing in on itself. As for his tailoring, the bedrock of any Chalayan collection, it followed the same story of peeling layers, while incorporating the designer’s easy signature shapes – a deep green leather jacket, say, whose collar draped like a peeling layer, or the back of a loose charcoal cashmere coat – plain from the front, but with a draped satin-trimmed hem at the back. That faux furry fabric he created for pre-fall was also revisited here in cocoon-like coats and jackets in pearl grey and cream – deliciously cosy and deftly simple. Proof that for every abstract showpiece, there’s a Chalayan wardrobe staple just waiting to be worn. And admired.

See the amazing Dior collection

PFW Models off duty

Paris Street Style

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