We had stepped into cloud nine. Or at least, it was Dior’s version of that celestial pinnacle, complete with giant inflatable silver balloons dotted around the vast constructed space on Place Vauban, reflecting everything with fish-eye curvature. A calming blue light had been cast and Rene Magritte-esque clouds projected onto the floor. They were the first clue that would bring us into this more experimental and freed state of mind that Raf Simons was in. Performance artist Laurie Anderson’s jarring dialogue about her overweight dog was the other clue to contrast the wafty, dream-like state instilled by the set – a snap back to reality, to real life and to moments that make up the daily routine of women.
This wasn’t a contrasting concept for concept’s sake though. Simons spoke of wanting to feel connected to the person of Monsieur Dior and so their pasts intertwined and found common ground – Dior continually went back to the Belle Epoque whereas Simons loves the mid-century. Dior started his career at an art gallery, representing artists like Salvador Dalí. Connection after connection was made in a join-the-dots memory game. “It’s taking the freedom to allow yourself to go to these moments in the past. It’s romantic and not romantic. It’s dreamy and surreal going towards the real,” explained Simons after the show.
What physically manifested though wasn’t as fragmented as it sounds as Simons continued on his path of being faithful to Monsieur Dior’s ideology but on his own terms. The Bar jacket had its reinvention in denim. The Dior houndstooth was enlarged and pulled taut into bustiers or into a laser-cut satin pattern. A Dior coat and a rosette strapless dress sifted from the archives were rendered in black leather. Cable knit flounced as in surprisingly elegant form. Then came the ultimate meta gesture.
In collaboration with The Andy Warhol Foundation, early sketches from Warhol’s days as a commercial fashion illustrator were worked into collage dresses or as embroideries on clutches alongside Surrealist-inflected eyes, keyholes and eyelashes. This period of Warhol’s work appealed to Simons because of its sensitivity to women, but more importantly it’s the creative person’s hand on display. This was “memory wear” as Simons called it, defined as a wearable sketchbook of moments and keepsakes. Simons likened these smatterings of graphic imagery to tattoos. Instead of ink and skin though, thread and body were at one. All of this minutia may be lost on the wider audience but an intimate and sensitive collection like this will create solid memories with those lucky enough to wear it. That’s Simons very real ambition.
Hair: Guido Palau
Makeup: Pat McGrath