Pin It
Dior Cruise 2016, Dazed Digital
Dior Cruise 2016

Raf Simons on his surrealist showcase

For a collection drawing on the house’s architectural heritage, the designer staged a show in Pierre Cardin’s futuristic France home

Surreal setting:

The Palais Bulles – an interconnecting architectural wonder of terracotta eyeballs set into the cliffs of Theoule-sur-Mer was built as a utopian project to encompass architect Antti Lovag’s theory of “habitology” – to live in ancestral cave-like dwellings where beauty, harmony and a free-wheeling way of thinking can give way to creative expression. “I was very astonished when I saw it for the first time, because it sits in such a weird way, away from any old architecture,” said Simons before the show. “For me this in architecture is what Kusama is in the art world. It’s so removed from anything else because there was no logic. It's not a mathematical way of doing architecture, you know. It's not like Corbusier or something like that and I find that very interesting because it makes it very fun and very frivole and very feminine and light and you know, not so heavy weighted and not so autoritaire.”

It was the perfect architectural summation of where Raf Simons is at with Dior, as he freed and lightened up the silhouettes using Dior’s atelier take on homespun crafts to create movement and experimental textures. Models snaked their way around Lovag’s bulbous terracotta and glass globules lined with a shade of pink that Monsieur Dior would have approved of, to a mash-up soundtrack of 18th century Baroque and the electronica of Martin Gore. The collection comprised of elements of sun, sea, sky and sand coming together with stars flocking to nearby Cannes as well as the arrival of artists like Picasso and Matisse in their relaxed attire. It’s why bias cut evening gowns would find company with rustic checked jackets, frayed-hemmed dresses and 1920s style bathing suits. Fabrication led to fluidity as the Côte d’Azur landscapes were collaged into painterly lurexes, furs were knitted into freeform chenille and lattice knits bounced side by side with crochet. From bubble to palm to pool, the collection echoed the multi-faceted nature of the South of France.

The maison’s connection with this surreal venue is not just through Simons’ fascination but as the owner of this bubble palace Pierre Cardin was also incidentally a former Head of Atelier Tailleur to Monsieur Dior when he was crafting his new look. At 92 he looked sprightly in the front row of his bubble house. Innovators both past and present – Monsieur Dior’s spirit, Cardin and Simons were all there to bear witness to the spectacular fireworks display, soundtracked by Optimo (who DJ’ed at the afterparty at Silencio later in the evening). The orchestration of the fireworks themselves was a summation of what Simons has achieved thus far at Dior – as they were exacting but impactful. 

Reductive resort:

The collection may have been playful with fabrics but Simons’ approach was about taking away rather than adding and mathematically reducing the construction. There’s calculation in the way the bar has once again been riffed off of, this time with utilitarian and a deliberate move away from “big” coats and skirts. “I am very, very obsessed with the way Christian Dior constructed. That silhouette has a weight, has a literal weight, you know, the amount of fabric and the length and I like the idea of making it lighter. So this collection is very much about cutting a lot of it away –  such a beautiful construction, but how can we make that contemporain, and how can we free that up for the woman, just by almost literally sometimes thinking, we can cut it away until the amount of fabric you need to be covered, you know? It's kind of like a mathematical thing.” 

Architectural digest:

This season, we’ve been hit with architectural wonders from all corners of the globe for the cruise shows but the relationship between architecture, the house of Dior and Simons’ approach towards fashion is perhaps more meaningful when you consider the distinctive lines and silhouettes of the house as well as Simons’ own beginnings as a furniture designer and his own interest in fields beyond fashion. 

“For me, it's my background. Design, architecture and art had so much more presence in my life from a young age on, and my studies relate to it, than fashion,” said Simons. “So for me it was always, always there, and I was attracted to go to Dior because he is such an architectural designer. You know, even if it doesn't really look sometimes like that, but actually the construction is very architectural. I think that's why he became a massive inspiration for contemporary designers like Yohji or Rei who truly respect and admire him because of that distinct line.”