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Dior Tokyo Pre-AW14 Susie Bubble
Dior Pre-AW14 in Tokyo

Raf Simons on Dior Pre-AW14 in Tokyo

Susie Bubble reports on a show that saw snow fall in a sumo wrestling arena – and even a foray into sequins – as the creative director injected the house with a new practicality

The backstory to this inaugural Pre-AW show for Dior held in Tokyo was that Monsieur Dior himself had strong affinities with Japan. The Japan of his imagination revolved around Hokusai paintings, Utamaru nudes and women looking demure in kimonos and white geisha make-up – in other words, the yesteryear Japan of most people’s imaginings. This longstanding relationship between Dior and Japan was emphasised again and again – in the origami paper doll of a New Look silhouette in guests’ hotel rooms, in the Esprit Dior exhibition where Japan’s influence on Dior was laid bare, and in the choice of venue for the show: a vast sumo wrestling venue.

Called the Kokugigan, it normally seats 10,000, and the scale floored you as soon as you entered to see a metal grid-like structured erected over the square elevated runway – bubble snow drifting down like an atmospheric samurai movie. But that’s where the nods to tradition ended. Raf Simons has been coming to Tokyo for the past thirty years, what with his own namesake brand taking off very early on in Japan (Simons’ popularity was evident after the show, as throng of eager fans were dying to get a glimpse/an autograph/a selfie with him). He had the insight to pick up on the nuances of Japanese style – the contrasts, the layers and above all, the inhibition to express themselves too freely through attire.

In Simons’ Tokyo metropolis, eveningwear throttled with outdoors, and glamour with utilitarian. In Tokyo, the fantastical and the surreal often is a reality. That observation rang true in the collection, as a parade of textural and stylistic juxtapositions – goretex-esque opera coats, the bar shape worked into MA1 bomber jackets, sequined turtlenecks and wader boots that curved into a sharp heel – came stomping out to Björk’s majestic “Hunter”. Making the fantasy tangible is also what characterises Simons’ oeuvre thus far at the house. We might have drifted away for a moment there in amidst the stadium snowfall, but the clothes are undoubtedly for pounding solid ground in the real world.

How did this collection come together for you?

Raf Simons: I started this collection before we decided to come to Japan and when we knew we were going to come here, we put some extra pieces in. It was this idea of the metropol and in this city, so many people take the liberty to express themselves through high fashion or low fashion. I like this assemblage of different styles.

Where do you like to hang out in Tokyo?

Raf Simons: It’s always changing. Back in the day, I liked that the scenes were always shifting. I would always be perplexed by some of the things we saw. Like once, we saw all these kids hanging out outside a McDonalds on a side street near the Shibuya scramble crossing and they were all dressed up like Pamela Anderson with bleached hair and neon mini skirts and boob tubes. I was used to people dressed up like they are in Fruits magazine but this was a whole other level! Then we realised they hung out near the McDonalds because they could go inside and use the toilets to check their make-up. I never found out what this movement was all about. We ate 20 hamburgers a day just to see them!

It’s quite a contrast to the general manner of the Japanese – that they can be reserved and yet display such extreme personal style.

Raf Simons: I think it’s a beautiful combination – to not be loud and badly dressed but to be serene and really well dressed!

Why have it snowing indoors?

Raf Simons: I wanted it to be an urban cityscape to go with the collection. The collection was about adding to the garde-robe. Dior is so often about special occasion or momentum garments for the red carpet or dinner. For me it’s important to add things and these women who wear these clothes might have kids, they might go gardening or be by the coast on the weekend. So we did a lot of rematerialisation – like using outdoor Stone Island-type fabrics with evening wear. On the other hand I wanted to have this idea of glamour and evening like using paillettes almost like a second skin with the turtlenecks underneath the dresses.

We never had you down as a sequins person…

Raf Simons: I hate sequins normally! But suddenly if you can flick it around and make them look warmer, like it’s a comfortable sweater.

There was something quite un-precious about the attitude of the clothes and the way the girls wore them.

Raf Simons: I loved the idea of going very hardcore into the Dior language and form like the bar shape but I loved that we incorporated that into easy outerwear coats which you can wear everyday, sit on them or throw them on the floor. You don’t have to treat it like the way you would a silk gown. It’s the kind of garment that will get better with age. It’s an attitude that you can see growing in the brand.

Origami New Look dresses come to life in this pre-show teaser trailer: