TOKYO — Dior took over this city’s famed sumo stadium on Thursday night to showcase creative director Raf Simons’ vision for pre-fall: a futuristic, outdoorsy take on daywear rife with both function and sequined shimmer.
“I think it’s a little bit more edgy, this one. So I’m very excited,” Simons said during an interview at the Grand Hyatt two nights before his show, which took place on a massive set beneath an enormous pipe grid structure — an attempt to create what the designer termed an “urban landscape abstraction.” Faux snowflakes made of a dissolving foamy substance fluttered down from the rafters for the entire show, creating a dreamy, fantasy-like atmosphere for an audience that included Audrey Tautou, Hailee Steinfeld and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault.
The Belgian designer said he drew inspiration from disparate influences — the movie “Blade Runner,” Tokyo’s street fashion and urban sprawl, the Sixties-era experimentalism of Paco Rabanne, an old photo of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in paillette-embellished underwear — and distilled them into new wardrobe pieces for the Dior woman trekking into the city in the dead of winter or taking a mini break with her kids at the Welsh seaside.
“I was very interested to do something which relates very much to the idea of outdoor, which is the opposite of cocktail or red carpet or whatever,”
Simons said, donning a blue shirt printed with a white paint-splatter pattern. “I thought it was really relevant to add something to the garderobe…[and]create items that are really not present in Dior in this moment — or not enough, in my opinion. You know, like a coat, and you can jump on your motorcycle every day with that coat.”
The resulting “Esprit Dior” collection was a chic, modern lineup heavy on coats and coat-like dresses in structured, outerwear fabrics, many of them based on the house’s signature Bar shape that Simons said he wanted to push “even further.” He turned to “outdoor” fabrics like heavy cottons, washed leathers and waxed fabrics to construct much of the collection. Structured coats and bustier dresses were layered over skintight, sequined bodywear, which Simons called a “second skin.” Several of these shimmery pieces featured intricate patterns mimicking knitwear motifs like the cable and Fair Isle. Other exits included a mink and patent leather dress and a silver leather astrakhan coat. There were chunky platform boots and micro Miss Dior bags, while rough stone rings adorned nearly every model’s finger.
“This kind of outdoor aspect became a very important thing, so what I wanted to do is fuse something very typical, historical Dior in the shape [and] language with something which is very urban and outdoor in the actual materialization and construction,” he said, explaining that the emphasis is on wearable and functional clothes this season, rather than traditional luxury staples.
“Not what fashion has been eating for five years and fashion has been spitting out for five years. Not like what we also usually do, like double-faced luxe cashmere and all of that — no. Of course, we have that also to sell — but for the show, it’s not that. For the show, it’s a whole different kind of thing, much tougher and much rougher,” he said.
In keeping with that theme, Dior chief executive officer Sidney Toledano said the French brand is courting a lot of new clients who are asking for more in terms of daywear, so it is expanding its product offering.
“There was room and demand for more city kind of daywear, always with a Dior touch,” Toledano said, underlining the increasing significance of pre-fall and cruise to the brand’s strategy of introducing fresh products to customers every couple of months. The Tokyo show is Dior’s first pre-fall runway show, and Toledano said the brand will continue to stage traveling shows for it each year, presenting it in a different place each time, just like cruise.
“Today, you know, the customer is coming at least every two months to see something new, and you have to communicate on it,” he said, adding that Dior has seen strong sales growth in Japan in recent weeks, despite the recessionary climate.
Throughout his pre-show interview, Simons made several references to his impressions of Japan, particularly from his first trips from 1995 to 2005, when he was building his namesake men’s brand. He said he was struck by the city’s playful, colorful street fashion, the eclectic style sensibility of Japanese people.
“What I like very much about this city is how the people take so much freedom to express themselves through fashion. I mean, it has been evolving, of course, over the past 20 years a lot [and] also in other cities. But I think especially back [to]the days when I came here for the first time — I thought there was no place like that to me. It just completely felt like ‘Blade Runner’ or something, this mood,” said the designer, making his first trip to Japan in three years.
The Ridley Scott sci-fi thriller, set in 2019 Los Angeles, provided ample source material for the season’s direction, Simons said.
“It is this kind of environment with all these different kinds of people and species and it sits in the future, but it also has a roughness and a reality to it but also a futurism….I think, there, the paillette thing started to come because we wanted to have something futurist, but not robotic. We wanted to have something futurist which is very, very feminine,” he said.
Simons also said Japan’s great designers’ architectural approach to fashion inspired him, at least to a certain extent.
“I thought about Tokyo in relation to high fashion. I thought it always had something architecturally futuristic [about it]. Also, if I think about the design that comes from here — you know, like Rei [Kawakubo] and Yohji [Yamamoto] and [Issey] Miyake and all of these people — I thought it was interesting to innovate, take that all into account without going there, so there was no real literal Japanese inspiration or anything. It’s the complete Dior shape and language, but then it has aspects that come in that we didn’t really explore before,” he said.
While Simons’ encounters with Japanese fashion and Tokyo’s futuristic side inspired him this season, the country’s revered sport of sumo did not. The designer said the choice of show venue was purely a matter of picking a place with enough space to execute his vision.
“What I wanted was a kind of, like, urban landscape. In an ideal situation, I would show in the middle of a street here, but of course it’s completely out of the discussion. It’s completely not possible. So, I just wanted to find the space which was [large enough] in order to be able to create within that a certain kind of…urban landscape abstraction.”