i-D Editor, Holly Shackleton discusses Raf Simons’ debut haute couture collection in his new role as Creative Director at the house of Dior.
Click images to enlarge.
On Tuesday history was made in Paris, as Raf Simons debuted his first haute couture collection for Dior. It was one of the most hotly anticipated debuts of all time, as press, buyers and fashion fans the world over united to welcome Raf into his new role. While many speculated as to how the Belgium designer would translate his minimalist aesthetic to the French luxury house, Raf proved he possesses the vision and talent to take Dior to its next incarnation.
Raf’s recent cover for i-D’s The Lights, Camera, Action Issue, shot by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Olivier Rizzo, offered a teaser of the floral inspiration that was to come, as the walls of five salons inside a grand Parisian mansion on Avenue d’lena were plastered floor to ceiling with over a million fresh flowers. Christian Dior himself was a known floral enthusiast, and no doubt would have approved of the room of exotic white orchids that led through to a room of bright yellow mimosa, blue delphiniums, pink roses, peonies and more. It was a spectacular sight that had Dior trending worldwide on Twitter before the show had even started!
As a stellar audience took their seats, the gravitas Raf holds as a designer became apparent. In an almost unheard of move, his fellow designers turned out in force to show their support. Sat front row there was Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace, Azzedine Alaïa, Riccardo Tisci, Christopher Kane, Kris Van Assche, Olivier Theyskens and Diane Von Furstenberg, while celebrity guests included Sharon Stone, Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence, Dior ambassador Marion Cotillard, Mélanie Laurent, Harvey Weinstein and Princess Charlene of Monaco to name just a few.
Raf started the collection stripped back and elegant. The opening look saw Julia Nobis step out in a pair of sleek black cigarette trousers, and a flared tuxedo jacket inspired by Dior’s iconic Bar jacket. A black trouser suit followed, and an A-line black coat cinched in at the waist with a futuristic gold belt. Backstage after the show Raf told i-D, “I wanted to bring more dynamic to the world of couture.” Which he certainly achieved, but the real craftsmanship lay in the embroidery. Exquisitely embroidered fabric buds and crystal petals brought an Alice in Wonderland beauty to fairytale dresses, bustiers and cropped ball gowns that spun out dramatically above the waist. Raf introduced his love of contemporary art to Dior, inviting American artist Sterling Ruby to create a dripping wax print, which he splattered epically across ball gowns and coats. Innovation was of course balanced out with a respectful nod to house codes. A series of beautifully simple grey boucle wool dresses, with cinched waists and large collars paid homage to Dior’s ‘New Look’, while a spectacular swan feather ball gown in creamy pink and blue channelled Christian Dior’s love of romance. Elsewhere the introduction of a pale pink shoulder-less evening gown subtly referenced Raf’s final collection for Jil Sander and made the seamless transition between his past and his present. “As a house, Dior celebrates femininity, elegance and nature,” Raf told i-D in The Lights, Camera, Action Issue. “It’s an interesting development for me. I will have a greater structure within which to tell my story.” i-D has followed Raf’s stellar career trajectory since 1998, when i-D Founder and Editor-in-Chief Terry Jones invited him to be part of the fashion and cinema exhibition he was curating at the Biennale di Firenze in Florence. It’s been a whirlwind journey since. As Twitter buzzed with excitement, and the paparazzi fought to get a shot, it was clear that this designer’s star is firmly on the ascendant. Welcome to the future.
Text: Holly Shackleton
Photography: Mitchell Sams
See more from our i-Think series here.