During a preview at Dior’s blinding white Avenue Montaigne ateliers on Sunday night, Raf Simons noted that there’s a big difference between mere flora and gardens. That’s because the human hand is implicated in the latter: Plants can be left to their own devices or heavily manipulated. Witness the meticulous, manicured formality of French gardens, versus the more laissez-faire English approach.
Such a distinction offers a bonanza of possibilities for a conceptually minded designer like Simons, who let artificial colors and vaguely botanical constructions creep into his simple show premise — “the very idea of spring,” he said.
The venue, a mirrored tent virtually invisible amidst the barren trees surrounding it in the Tuileries, was done up inside with undulating hedges by Belgian landscape artist Martin Wirtz. Models styled with small, feathered caps of hair roamed between the rows, like birds looking for a place to alight. They sported sparkling red lips and wore fetching confections in an array of Willy Wonka shades.
If the audience wondered how Simons would top his couture debut last July, with its million flowers plastering the walls of a Parisian town house, here was their answer: While similar in theme and allure to his fall couture offering, his spring collection was even better.
The show opened quietly — a bustier dress with a black bodice and a fluttering sky blue skirt cut in a Fifties length. Simons reprised the glossy bell-shaped skirts, the pinch-waist tuxedos and the sleek bustiers worn over cigarette pants, models’ hands jauntily tucked into pockets. He referenced the telltale curve of Dior’s iconic Bar jacket in the flaring hem of scoop-neck satin tops and in the ethereal, trumpet-shaped bridal gowns that came at the climax of the show.
Simons also went further with some of the great ideas from his debut. Instead of featuring different embroideries front and back on dresses, they mingled in asymmetric fashion on hourglass gowns, or swirled around a short-sleeved cocktail dress in satin the color of sea foam.
A modernist at heart, Simons gave familiar silhouettes futuristic verve with bold, even strange colors: icing the edge of a black bustier dress with granular neon yellow embroideries, or lighting up a column of creamy Guipure lace by tinting the edges of floral shapes a shade of red as searing as a laser.
Simons made it clear he wants to “go slow” in his makeover of Dior, “so I didn’t want to do a heavy concept, hence the idea of the garden, flowers, spring and the evolution of that,” he said.
With Paris blanketed with snow, its streets riddled with slush, this “very idea of spring” could not have been more tantalizing.