Backstage before his Christian Dior show on Friday, Raf Simons explained that his spring starting point was the couture collection he showed in July. He chose to adapt its elements for two reasons, because of the excess speed of fashion and because many ready-to-wear clients had expressed their desire for clothes in a vein similar to the mood of the couture.
That collection’s ruse was the establishment of a new modernity through examination of historical motifs, particularly 18th-century court attire, cross-referenced with disparate elements, from street to stratosphere.
His approach here was similar. Simons took it all down a notch, as befits the gap from couture to mere luxury. What remained: a focus on cut, inspired by the court coat and because, he said, “you see so many clothes that have so much stuff on them that I started to think more about actual construction. Also because that’s what Christian Dior did so much — an architectural approach.”
Simons thus had his way with the frock coat, in black and vibrant colors, with and without sleeves, plain or with deft sprigs of floral embroidery, and he extracted its grandeur, putting it over quilted drawstring Bermudas. He infused knits with structure; a white sweater look took its techno-texture from sport and its flourish from the garden. He showed precise separates in crisp white piqué, sometimes with deep cuffs of regal brocades, and he interpreted the robe à la Français with a sensible jersey bodice.
There was a soft side as well, in covered-up shirtdresses that billowed with convent-school modesty and astronaut flight suits prettied up in warp-print taffeta.
As always, Simons stressed the goal of modernity; in this case, he looked back to move forward. What he left unsaid was the deliberate weirdness he brought to this process. This was one strange amalgam of courtly, monastic, athletic, virginal, street, latent hippie and — oh, yes — archival influences. Yet it never felt forced. Rather, it coalesced into a buoyant expression of chic with edge — just the right amount of edge to take the powerhouse that is Dior into what Simons called “the near future.”