Dior Haute Couture Fall 2012
History is a funny thing. Its course can be redrawn at the whim of its victors. It follows people wherever they go. Raf Simons is no stranger to this reality. For his debut collection at Dior, the stakes were higher than ever: the press in a frenzy; the blogosphere on its heels; and, most of all, the occasion, a Dior couture show. What the record will show from now on is that Raf Simons showed up to the test, rewriting Dior’s feel. It’s not possible to summarize this collection on the beauty of its work alone, but by the beauty of this collection’s historical treatment. To a level of remarkable success, Simons infused remnants of his Jil Sander past with memories from the long path set by Christian Dior after World War II.
Most notable about this collection was the emotional response elicited in viewers. Writers, bloggers, and addicts alike experienced near catharsis at the sight of two things that we’ve all loved at one point: either the work of Dior or the work of Raf Simons. For familiar habitués of both designers, Simons provided something incredibly moving: a seamless blending of differing aesthetics that managed to communicate two stories. One the narrative of a rigorous designer with strong minimalist tendencies, staying true to a vision fostered at Jil Sander. The other of a brand that seemed to have lost touch with its heritage, either as result of doing too much or too little. Raf Simons was on balance in his debut, rewriting the wrongs of past designers while furnishing a new direction. Many of the pieces included artifacts of Simons’ past work. The jewel-encrusted colliers of Jil Sander’s Spring 2012 season made a significant but quiet reappearance; one dress in a light pink recalled Simons’ diminutive exit collection for his former employer. Meanwhile, Simons drew strongly on the label’s post-World War II heritage. Referencing the founder’s New Look, Simons set a keen course, opening with sleek suits accented with Dior’s classic feminine lapels, slanted pockets, and dramatic hips.
The result of Simons’ almost scholarly mixing of old and new was a a new “New Look.” Most important about Simons’ innovation were the intellectual vibes it sent off. In past shows, Raf Simons has with concrete, pragmatic concepts. Here, he is able to provide the comfort of his design alacrity with the vigor of his cerebral pursuits. Above all, this collection seemed thoughtful. Simons showed true commitment to learning Dior. The attention to detail is prime evidence of this fact. The slim pants shown early in the collection were precise; the way the blue wool crepe of a strapless top graced the model’s body was exacting, even its long tails cascading with order.
It’s not everyday that we are presented with a collection so intellectually clear and uncompromising. Simons’ ability to blend two histories into one confirms his status as one of the world’s premier designers. This is not simply because he produces fabulous work. But because he has entered the legion of designers whose work can be critically considered art. This collection showed intent, commitment, intellectualism, and reverence.
Raf Simons is needed medicine for Dior. After the Galliano debacle and the house’s swerving, unsure path of recent seasons, Simons has demonstrated the ability to realign the culture of the brand in a more contemporary vein. More important, Simons is the cure for a series of ailing couture seasons. It’s no secret that few couture have met the intellectual and creative demands of the season. With the industry as an audience, this collection reaffirms that couture is not simply an onslaught of the avant-garde; instead, it is about vision. Raf Simons’ debut collection was, in a way, an industry-wide gift. Embedded in it was a silent but broad message addressed to all designers in Simons’ class: step up the game.