It's difficult to see how high the bar was set following Simons' unanimously praised haute couture collection, his first for the house of Dior. Some would say that this ready to wear collection was Simons' first real test, having had sufficient time to settle in, learn the ins and outs of his new environment and take in all that the maison has to offer in terms of resources, production capabilities and of course, the vaulted archives of Monsieur Dior's work. Regardless of what level the expectations were, there was definitely palpable excitement as show goers entered the specially constructed building in front of the Hôtel des Invalides, sectioned off into different coloured salons where we glimpsed at the winding runway through peepholes veiled by pastel organza.
As soon as the sounds of Detroit techno maestro Carl Craig started pounding away, what we associated with Dior pre-Raf momentarily smashed to smithereens. We were collectively caught up in the experience of witnessing a shift that will define this new epoch of fashion.
It began with a rigorous exercise of restraint featuring tuxedo jackets and trousers, adorned with neck bows (created by Stephen Jones) that weren't merely there for decoration; they gave movement. The jackets then became mini dresses, sometimes a whole outfit on their own and the curves on the hips gradually grew so that they were nodding to the classic Dior bar jacket but curiously sensual, with its disregard for lack of anything worn down below. That movement continued on in the sections of pleats and godets inserted into jackets, introducing alluring reflective organzas that immediately spoke of modernity. The same fabric was worked into bubbling strapless tops paired with crisp evening shorts – another way of giving his new gen Dior woman the ability to move. The classic A-line flare gave way to op-art striped dresses that were simple and complex at once as they moved down the catwalk. Then there was the clever trapping of the classic H-line pencil dress shape within a free flowing tulle overlayer embroidered with the outline of a dress. The restraint in the amount of applique and embroidery was perfectly judged, winking at us with its playfulness without the need to suffocate us with sequins and frou frou. The contrast of a black jacket embroidered with beaded baubles that could have been tie-dye spots, UFOs or abstract art work. When the past came coursing back in rose printed ball skirts paired with sleek black turtlenecks, it was that pervasive sheen of the iridescent silk layer that shone at us with new light, indicating this enlightened point in the house of Dior's journey.
"Sex" and "Freedom" were the two key words which Simons talked of backstage after the show as if we didn’t gauge that already. If Monsieur Dior was reacting to what had gone before with his 1947 New Look, then Simons was convulsing against what had gone before both at the house and his own body of work, remaining true to what he represents as a designer but also attempting to peer into an unknown future. Ultimately Simons broke through a barrier for himself as well as for the house in successfully bringing together minimalism with a newfound sensuality and euphoric textural and silhouette exploration that got the audience rising to a crescendo throughout the show. The last thing we had throbbing through our heads was a poignant excerpt from the soundtrack, 'I Feel Love'.