No one would ever accuse Raf Simons, now in his third couture season at Dior, of being short of ideas. The collection he showed in Paris this afternoon was extraordinary both in terms of the clothes and, maybe even more so, the mise-en-scene. All the more remarkable was the fact that, unlike so much contemporary fashion, Simons' ideas were entirely original. Any references to the work of others – the late M Dior himself aside, of course – were conspicuous by their absence.
‘I began by looking at women from different continents and cultures who wear couture, their personal style,’ the designer stated. ‘The collection evolved to be about Dior not just being about Paris and France, but about the rest of the world and how many fashion cultures impact on the house and on myself.'
The concept was in a sense, a literal one: the realms of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas were all looked at and reflected the international nature of the luxury goods industry today. Influences though were so intriguingly spliced together and juxtaposed that it became much more than that.
La Parisienne, who must remain at the heart of this great French fashion institution, could be seen in a short black belted trench jacket worn with a knee-length organza skirt. The American sportswear tradition - and that country's flag - resonated in a floor length trapezoid silk gown printed with bold (and by now signature) stripes and a starry stripey fur. Architectural complexity spoke of Japan, drape of Africa, and so forth.
As if the collection weren’t ambitious enough, earlier in the day, Simons gathered together four of the world’s most feted photographers – Patrick Demarchelier, Terry Richardson, Paolo Roversi and Willy Vanderperre – all of whom shot the collection in their own style and against equally distinct sets backstage.
The results were projected on to the backdrop and so, as models walked, they were dwarfed by images of themselves in the very same clothes. It looked spectacular: beautiful and, again, unlike anything that has been seen before.
Earlier in the day, Dior CEO Sidney Toledano told Women’s Wear Daily that the couture arm of this label is currently enjoying double-digit growth. The reason behind that, he explained, was Simons' ability to attract new and younger clients from international markets. 'Couture has to be creative and innovative' as well as commercially viable, he said. 'It has to bring new vision.'
This collection had that in spades.