There was a lot of past voyeurism for SS 15. Some voyages felt like mere pastiche as they ventured to the near past. Others went beyond the surface of a decade and took us somewhere new – or at the very least, fresh. That’s what it felt like at Dior. I should have been feeling deja vu. After all, I was at the haute couture show back in July. But this was as Simons put it on the press notes: “Providence (Extended Remix): looking forwards and backwards to prepare for the future through a dynamic sampling and remixing of history.”
To carry on the remix analogy, I’d compare it to the Superpitcher extended version of M83’s Don’t Save Us From the Flames. The original was great. But the build up and the slowing down of the remix is ultimately more satisfying – and the joy is prolonged. As was this ready to wear collection. Simons had taken elements from that haute couture collection – namely the glorious 18th century bits – pannier dresses, justacorp court coats and yesteryear delicate floral motifs – and fully synthesised them so that they became credible on a ready to wear level. And I mean “ready”, as in wanting to deperately reach out on the circular runway to touch those sumptuous fabrics straight away. That’s the effect of a closed-in intimate presentation.
You could see the way the silk satins in the vests and coats had that heavy washed texture, like a vintage robe. Fabric covered buttons running up virginal white dresses looked delicious, if that makes any sense. You could pick out the nubbly texture of the thick threads running through the oddly alluring hand knitted footwear (in other words Fly Knit chez Dior). Every little bit of intricate embroidery on the panelled bodice jackets jumped out at you like jigsaw pieces of the familiar had been reconfigured into a new formation.
In short, it was like someone had cherry picked their way through the 18th century drawers of V&A’s Clothworker’s Centre and sifted out a whole host of long lost sartorial detailing to time travel into the 21st century. A fair-weather fashion history enthusiast like myself could pick out some of the original references and revel in them. Someone looking at the collection with complete fresh eyes – without any point of references – wouldn’t have felt like they were looking at a period drama costume rail. They’d be struck by how cool a cut-out body looked with an aerated floral pannier robe skirt. They’d be seduced by the high necks of fantasy bed shirts with traditional open lacework and how the voluminous sleeves looked so modern. 18th century silk jacquard florals worked into astronaut-inspired boiler suits were anything but chintzy. If you’re mildly into the ribbondry of places like VV Rouleaux in London, then the knotted satin ribbon dresses were the stuff of dreams. Those frock coats and gilets worn with “skate” shirts – sometimes quilted, sometimes not – mimicked the way that a lot of people take vintage garments of great age to wear today. That was the thing that really clicked about the show. It was the way Simons had carved out paths for history to not repeat itself, but to be cut and remixed in a way that felt tangible, and yes, modern. And no, that’s not just me throwing out the m word for effect.
“For this collection I wanted to continue; I thought there was more to explore. By beginning with the ingredients and the form language of the couture, but going further, I wanted the ready-to-wear to feel more modern, more dynamic, more real – I wanted it to be made available to a wider audience.”
I know I said the same about the haute couture but for the ready to wear, that sense of touchability was even more apparent. All that florid rococo and baroque excess locked away in museums, on dusty mannequins and in Joshua Reynolds and Francois Boucher paintings came alive. And we’re smitten not because the pieces are historical but because beautifully crafted clothes communicate the same thing today as they did three hundred years ago. They invite feelings of appreciation, adulation and unfortunately for us mere non-Dior kitted out morals, unrequited infatuation.
Photograph of Yohji Yamamoto blazer for Strut campaign by James Ari King and ‘Madame Bergeret’ (c. 1766) by François Boucher