It’s no secret that Raf Simons has made quite a splash at the legendary house of Dior. In contrast to his predecessor, John Galliano, whose Dior girl could be described as “pirate bride from the Moulin Rouge”, Simons’ first job after assuming creative control was to take a step back. Often called a minimalist, in part because of his background as the creative director of Jil Sander, Simons’ challenge was to market an entire international brand that will continue to inspire the way women want to dress. Using the archives of Monsieur Dior carefully, Simons has stripped down the silhouettes that made the house famous, and reinterpreted them for the twenty-first century.
This is not to say anything negative about Galliano. He was and still is a legendary artist. It is only to say that the two have very different sensibilities. Simons takes on several themes during a season, and holds onto them with a vice grip. Each reference he makes within a show is carefully calculated, proportioned, and then fed into the garments. The result is a razor-sharp vision that combines the wholly feminine style of the house with intellectual and modern details that assure longevity for Simons’ career. In an article by Marc Holgate at Vogue, Simons said that, “You go to Chanel, and you recognize the codes, the woman, straight away,” he explains a day or so after the show. “But the Dior woman? Except for some dresses and the full skirts, it would be hard to pull her out of a crowd. Those jackets, which women can wear the way they want, it’s something I want to build on. People told me afterward, ‘Wow, it’s clear where you want to go.’ ” This doesn’t mean that the Dior woman isn’t recognizable, simply that the silhouettes can be interpreted by many people in many different ways. This is integral to the preservation of such an iconic house, because each woman has her own opinion as to what the word “Dior” really means.
Make no mistake, however; Simons’ clothes are still the ultimate in aspirational dressing. His fall/winter 2013 show was an ode to surrealism versus sobriety, and included references to René Magritte, Andy Warhol, and the New Look patterns that made Christian Dior a household name. His accessories line from the same season showcased a line of sunglasses in pastel shades and exaggerated cat-eye shapes (video here) that played to a Jackie Kennedy-esque sensibility, while his shoes were wholly surreal, featuring an inverted heel and holographic textures. One thing is certain: Raf Simons’ first outings have caught the fashion world by storm, and there is no doubt that, come next Paris Fashion Week, men and women will be hanging on his every sartorial movement.