Past Modernity

Past Modernity


I should have known, after his Dior cruise show in New York, Raf Simons mentioned in passing about potentially exploring the “fantastical” that he had something up his sleeve.

And so we got something fantastical for Dior’s latest couture A/W 14-5 show.  A white drum of a set lit up like a space launchpad a la Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey, landed in the middle of the Musee Rodin, with mirrored walls entirely covered with white orchids (incredibly how flowers get Instagram peeps really hot under the collar).  It was the perfect setting for Simons to confront and reflect upon the past to forge a new future.

It began with 18th century pannier dresses, curvaceous and bulbous but light as a feather seemingly as they circled around the set, exiting and entering from clinical sliding doors.  Hang on a minute, didn’t Simons eschew heavy historics, deeming it not particular modern?  Turns out he was questioning modernity and perhaps even turning back on himself by looking at the “far past” to eke out a new direction.  “I wanted to deal with a form language that looks to be almost the opposite of my original inspiration at Dior,” said Simons in his press notes. “It was an idea of confronting what people now think is an aesthetic that is modern – it felt more modern to go to the far past, not the ‘modernised’ look of the last decade. The challenge was to bring the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical.”

Therefore those pannier dresses didn’t look like they needed to be paraded around with Marie Antoinette wigs and beauty spots.  They had pockets.  They were aerated with new tulle structures. The 18th century original garment whispered but what shouted was how evocative (if not wholly practical) it looked.

What followed was seven more passages of similar historical deconstruction and recontextualisation. Flight suits and boiler suits at couture? Yup, they were an ode to wartime military gear except they were rendered in silk taffeta and embroidered with finesse. 1910s Edwardian coats were stripped of their frou frou ornamentation to leave just a long sinuous line in perfect outerwear. The under garments of 18th to 19th century got turned inside out so that bodices became skirts, again delicately embroidered. The court coats of the 18th century were rendered in a Fragonard palette but worn over Beat-esque black polonecks and trousers, which looked fresh in itself.  To casually throw on an exquisite frock coat over something entirely pared back and dare I say “normcore” looking, seems to define a new direction in haute couture.  The flapper dresses of the 1920s are re-imagined with new technique such as a shaggy form of resin punctuated fringe, dubbed “alien fur” by the atelier.  Of course the Dior archives get a look-in too as the bar jacket gets elaborated on with exaggerated collars in the softest of cashmere.  They looked easy too, and freed of the perceived rigour of Dior.  Finally, we had pleated dresses, embroidered and decorated like an astronaut suiting.  We were after all ready to lift off inside this Dior time continuum.









































“The past holds the key to the future,” is what Simons seemed to be saying and frankly, the further back you go into the past, you remove yourself from the danger of being referential.  How many designers after all have the balls to even attempt to reference those 18th century shapes, especially in this current climate of easy sportswear and simplified garments?  It also points to the sort of short term memory that the fashion world has, that collections from only five years ago are rehashed and recycled.  Going way further back almost feels like a new frontier.  When the likes of Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen did it, it certainly felt that way.

Today, Raf Simons handled the far past on his own terms and it paid off.  None of the outfits felt weighted down with history and concept, despite the eight-part format of the show.  People who are not remotely interested in fashion history need not have the lesson rammed down their throats.  They could just sit back and admire the perfect long line coat, the pretty embroidered loose shift dress, the lovely frock coat and of course those dramatic bulbous gowns for extra wow factor and if they’re the lucky people who are clients – they’ll happily pull out their chequebook and order up their choice pieces for their cocktail parties and cotillion balls.

Oh, and speaking of the past, Simons may have sent us on an epic time travel experience for Dior Couture but soundtracking each section of the show with a different Sonic Youth song (Flower, Teen Age Riot, Screamking Skull and Into the Groovey to name a few) was exactly the grounding type of sound you needed to accompany this journey of looking backward to go forward.  They’re songs of Simons’ personal past – and somehow made these garments of future past all the more real. Whatever that means today.





Leave a comment
  1. Gabrielle

    2014-07-08 at 9:32 AM

    Beautiful write-up. Almost as much so as the showing itself.

    If couture’s going to delve into approachability, I think this is a testament to how it can/should? be done.

    Wearable without reeking of “wearability”. All at once aspirational & attainable, red carpet am ready to wear.


    • Ana

      2014-07-08 at 3:33 PM

      Oh, yes, that was one of my first thoughts – “this is quite wearable for Dior”.

  2. Maggiecallife

    2014-07-08 at 10:48 AM

    Wow! I am in love with this collection! Especially the first full white dresses, so beautiful and modern. I wish I could own something like that 🙂

  3. Cult of Cloth

    2014-07-08 at 10:49 AM

    Such gorgeous pictures, and a wonderful write-up. Raf Simons almost strikes me as the zen master of fashion, always aware, always in control without ever crossing the line into anything more constrictive. It’s as if design flows organically out of him.

  4. DekoEko

    2014-07-08 at 11:28 AM

    aranżacja pokazu zapiera dech w piersiach 🙂

  5. Paulina

    2014-07-08 at 11:29 AM

    I love them all!

  6. The Minx

    2014-07-08 at 12:05 PM

    I absolutely loved this collection – the historicism, for me, added a kind of inexplicable permeability that elevated the clothes to something memorable and even emotional. The only thing I disliked were the ankle boots, which I found a bit offensive in how much they took me out of the experience of the clothing. But overall, simply gorgeous!!


  7. GapToothedGirl

    2014-07-08 at 1:04 PM

    I love his work!!
    XOX, Gap.

  8. Ana

    2014-07-08 at 3:33 PM

    I usually don’t go for Dior as a whole, but this… this is something else.

    It reminded me a bit of Chanel for some reason, though.

    • Ana

      2014-07-08 at 4:04 PM

      I went through the photos again and came to one conclusion:

      I’m in love.

      He referenced some of my favourite periods – those shapes! the embroidery that looks like it has been lifted from some of the most beautiful men’s pieces from the Met! that blue dress!

  9. Helen

    2014-07-08 at 5:17 PM

    exquisite!!! would love to glide along in one of those beautifully crafted coats!

  10. Marta Pozzan

    2014-07-08 at 7:11 PM

    Perfect makeup and shoes!

  11. Benedetta

    2014-07-08 at 9:01 PM

    Woooow..amazing shoes!!!Love everything!!!
    Be happy with fashion

  12. Silvia

    2014-07-09 at 10:47 PM

    Awesome post and awesome pics! I loved this collection. How are colours mixed are fantastic.

  13. Franca

    2014-07-10 at 7:18 AM

    I loved Dior and blending outfits from the most important periods was something so amazing!

  14. MD Babu

    2014-10-12 at 8:21 AM

    Great Concept. Like these ideas.

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