Raf Simons has always been open about his inspirations. Often, it’s been a case of wearing his heart on his sleeve, all but literally, which has given his work an extraordinary amount of soulfulness. That’s appropriate, given that music is his master. Simons’ Couture show for Dior today was permeated with his respect for David Bowie. “He’s a chameleon, able to reinvent himself,” Simons enthused. “But he’s also the materialization of something else. More than a man—an idea.” Much like Mr. Dior, in fact. The name “Dior” has come to represent so much more than Christian himself, and it’s now fallen to Simons to winkle out all that meaning.
For Simons, it unfortunately still means something a little too “lady” for his tastes. He’s resolute about changing that perception. He is keen to create connections for couture that wire it to the wider world. That was all over today’s show, from the materials used to the graphic silhouettes to a color scheme that kicked. Bowie used to call himself a medium. Simons is cut from the same cloth. The collection he showed was a stunning multilayered effort that spanned time and space, imagining the future as seen by the past, reimagining the past with the hindsight of the future, all set to a soundtrack of songs spanning key years in the career of a performer who has always done exactly that with his music. The conceit was simple in essence—Simons and Bowie giving each other a little soul love—but devastatingly sophisticated in its execution.
Take one ingredient—maybe the unlikeliest—of this couture confection: plastic. The first look was a sequined guipure lace shift topped with an opera coat in a green floral-printed plastic, anchored with vinyl thigh boots. The second look featured the same boots, same coat, this time in black, with the dress encrusted with embroidery. The romance of couture salons in the ’50s, the strung-out experimentalism of the ’60s, the anything-goes-ness of the ’70s…Simons rolled the universe into a ball wrapped in plastic. It’s a hard task to pick highlights from what followed. Minutely pleated flaring dresses and skirts embroidered in strips of ribbon had an ineffable, irresistible lightness. A tiny sequined shift topped by a floor-length coat made Edie Sedgwick new again. (She’s one fashion icon who will never fade away, but a little freshening up never hurt.) And the things that were done to guipure lace in the name of haute couture were the stuff of a beauty obsessive’s dreams.
After the show, Simons was musing on his road to here. “My first Couture shows were exercises in understanding the history. The more you understand, the more you see what it can become.” There were none of the Bar silhouettes that are Dior’s genetic building blocks, but there were plenty of another kind of building block: bodysuits, in jacquard knit or tattoo-embroidered silk. They’ll probably be the most divisive element in the collection, but they illuminated its most significant aspect. Simons claimed Dior for himself today. If he appreciates David Bowie’s chameleon quality, he proved that he is just as capable of reinventing himself. In a mirrored venue that was deliberately designed to stretch space outward and upward, Raf Simons took us on a trip—and tiny minds were blown.