Arriving guests couldn’t help a moment of breathlessness. Passing through the gated entrance of the Musée Rodin, they caught view of their destination: a huge faux-glass structure constructed of variously sized geometric panes — 356 of them — each one hand-painted with colorful, impressionistic blooms, more dotted suggestions than specific flowers. It was stunning.
With his venue for Dior’s latest couture collection, Raf Simons signaled a floral motif, one he has worked on and off during his tenure in homage to the house founder. Yet here he went for a non-Dior garden reference, Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, a painting with which he’s long been fascinated. “For many years I wanted to do something with it but I never really knew, I think, how to deal with it in terms of not making it heavily weighted with history and the like,” he said.
Until now. If Bosch intended his masterpiece as a warning of the eternal fallout from a life of indulgence, Simons extracted a more measured take: Life is full of contrasts, “very hard and very soft, very dark and very light, very angelic to very sexual.”
He put them all on the runway to exquisite effect. On the angelic side: pristine filmy white dresses; one was utterly simple save for cuffs embroidered with feathers. Some wafted freely, others were partially hidden under bold cape-coat hybrids, each with a single, dramatic fur sleeve. On the sexual (and, pardon the pragmatism, red carpet) side, intricately wrought columns opened all the way up the sides and fastened with jewelry links.
Simons invoked the grand gesture throughout, whether the sweeping sleeve, the naked side-view dress or the fur-and-feather take on the New Look. Dresses inspired by pointillism were surfaced completely in feathers arranged in minute detail; chain harnesses worn over some dresses and under others were constructed and looked like oversized jewelry. It all made for considerable romance, and beautifully so. Still, lest the lavishness turn wanton, Simons, as if heeding Bosch, offered moments of overt temperance. Haute corduroy, ladies? A different kind of temptation, and an earthier delight.