Raf Simons breathes new life into Dior

Dior's new artistic director Raf Simons brings flowers and finesse to the catwalk and brings a fresh take to the classic French label.

The walls of inter-connecting salons were dressed with no less than 300,000 flowers for Raf Simons' much-anticipated debut collection for Christian Dior in Paris last week. Guests filed through a first salon filled with waxy white orchids, then a second entirely covered in sunshine yellow mimosa, on to vivid blue delphiniums, pink peonies, black dahlias and more.

Like the house's namesake, Simons loves flowers and such freshness extended beyond the setting.

The tiniest jewelled buds were scattered across New-Look-line dresses; skirts echoed the shape of upturned lilies or soon to open tulips and the colours of the finest silks, furs and gazars were just as lovely as nature intended.

This was an extremely hopeful first outing, full of bright new ideas but all the while respectful of this grand fashion name's heritage Tailoring was complex, standing away from the body to exaggerate the curves of the female form to which M. Dior was ardently attached. Discreet trompe l'oeil details - the lapel of a jacket disappearing into its body, for example - spoke more of Simons' own handwriting.

Embroidery was similarly subtle: picture a pair of perfectly cut, black, cigarette-leg trousers worn with a jewel-encrusted bell top or a Klein blue bustier revealing the intricate workmanship the French ateliers are known and revered for as its train fluttered from behind.

Since Simons' appointment was formally announced in April, fashion insiders have speculated how this so-called "minimal" designer might interpret Dior's codes, steeped as they are in femininity and nostalgia.

But, the designer said, he is "a romantic person too" and that rang out loud and clear. Still, if haute couture is all about indulgence and a limitless budget, there was a restraint in evidence here that was both welcome and unusual.

"I wasn't trying to make a story," Simons added. "I wanted the clothes to be linked to Christian Dior but to make them more dynamic."

Add to the mix red mascara, streaks of silver on models' eyelids and an almost violently orange pout and that is what he achieved.

- Independent

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