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MASTER CLASS: “It’s like waiting for Madonna,” a fashion student mused backstage at the Dior couture show. Creative director Raf Simons was signing his show notes with an energetic curve. It was the third Dior show of the day, but with an entirely different audience.
The house had invited “a best of” fashion students from around the world, along with the employees from its own ateliers, to watch a show organized especially for them. Sixteen schools participated, including the Royal College of Arts in London, Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo and Parsons School of Design in New York, which sent their top two or three disciples.
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“It’s wonderful to connect with students and the atelier people, who don’t normally get to see the show,” said Simons, giving tips to the youngsters, who soaked in every word.
“I think as a student you shouldn’t think about the system, but just what you really, really believe in, and in the beginning reach out to other people who believe in it, rather than those who are in control,” he said.
Andrew Voss, from the University of Westminster, was enthralled by the level of craftsmanship. “I’ve been to other shows before, but this is my first haute couture show. It’s amazing – the combination of strong silhouettes and intricate detail,” he said. “That’s a whole other level.”
“Did you also visit the ateliers?” Simons asked.
Yes, they did. Dior allowed a sneak peak and treated the fashion pack to an exclusive preview of the collection. “That’s a real treat,” confirmed Simons, “because nobody [has access] there.”
“Seeing the embroideries up close was amazing,” enthused James Buck from Central Saint Martins. “One was of cut-out circles, [and] stitched on top of them were snowflakes and then parts of it were creeping out – really cool, really inspiring,” he said, sporting a vintage skirt-suit ensemble by Escada he bought at a charity shop for 10 pounds, or $16 at current exchange. “I have no money, so I have to get away with what I’ve got.”
“This is different from just visiting a show,” explained designer Walter van Beirendonck, who also teaches at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. “It’s a very rich experience for them, and it’s important that they [get up close with] this unknown world.”
The designer brought along two of his master-class students. “They are very talented,” he said. “I think they will fit the spirit of Dior in the future.”
Beirendonck should know. After all, it was he who gave Simons his first fashion internship, when the fledgling designer was still crafting furniture.
At the Dior show, Simons was clearly in his element, taking photographs and shaking hands with the youngsters. Asked whether he missed teaching, Simons said: “Yes.”
“It’s the most satisfying job, at least for me. It’s because I need this dialogue between generations and different cultures,” he continued.
Musing about the future of his young admirers, he added: “In five, six years from now they will probably kick me out. But that’s how it should be; that’s the cycle.”