Grazia's Fashion Director Susannah Frankel brings you her Fashion Victim musings of the week...
This week I found myself in the genteel city of Bath, talking to the very talented and charming Roland Mouret about the Norman Parkinson exhibition he’s curated in that city to celebrate a centenary since the photographer’s birth. It’s called Mouvements de Femmes and is a lovely edit of Parks’ spectacularly diverse sixty-year oeuvre, focusing on freedom and movement as the title suggests and well worth the trip. Thank you to all the kind people who attended our ‘In Conversation’, asked suitably pertinent questions and said such kind things to Roland and I.
Just around the corner and on the following day the 2012 Dress of the Year – the 50th in an esteemed series curated by fashion critics – was unveiled at the Fashion Museum. This year, Vanessa Friedman, fashion editor of the Financial Times, chose a look from Raf Simons’ debut haute couture collection for Christian Dior. It was an intelligent and relevant decision. The fact that the great French house was prepared to donate one of these precious exits to the Costume Museum in the first place, meanwhile, is a coup - proof, if ever any were needed, that its quietly unassuming galleries are valued the world over.
Strictly speaking, the Simons design in question isn’t a dress. In fact, its impact when it was first shown in July last year sprang at least partly from the fact that the creator in question chose to team the type of jewel-coloured, embroidered sweet nothing usually associated with this elevated craft form (to be precise, a tiny, bell-shaped top) with nothing more obviously whimsical than a pair of black, cigarette legged trousers.
Raf has spoken: “It is a great honour to have one of my debut Christian Dior Haute Couture collection’s looks chosen as Dress of the Year...” he said. “The way the Museum’s collection is such a distinct document of not just fashion, but history in general, makes me proud that my clothes can feature amongst those looks and say something about today.”
Yours truly was once privileged to be asked to choose the Dress of the Year too. It was 1999 and the dress was from Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer collection of that same year: a cream lace design with a moulded tan leather collar. It was only later that the designer said that this show, which famously featured Shalom Harlow being spray-painted by robots as she danced, was his favourite, the only one that ever made him cry.
Back to the present and Vanessa Friedman says of her turn as curator. “This dress, or rather evolution of the dress, from Raf Simons’ first couture show for Christian Dior, represents not just a generational shift in fashion – the moment when a new designer took over at the ultimate French couture house – but also an aesthetic new direction. It signals a move away form the most escapist, extreme garments of the fin de siècle and toward a new 21st century, post-recession balance that blends functionality with fantasy while at the same time returning to the essential values of the couture: making women’s lives easier.”