You know what I like about the pre-collections? Not the travelling (I’m lazy), nor the dinners (I’m anti-social), definitely not the jet-lag, frequently not the clothes – they’re often simple-minded, and, generally most aren’t any good from a critical standpoint. What I like though is the time. The time to look at said clothes, to ponder them, frequently to turn them inside out. The fact you get to step off the increasingly frenzied fashion treadmill and actually spent a chunk of your day thinking about what you’ve seen, rather than rushing to the next.
It’s really difficult to get fashion on film right – because it means so much to the people who love it, and is worthless to those who loathe it. Nothing will change those points of view – not extolling the hours of work poured into intricate clothes, not bandying about awe-inspiring figures about fashion house turnovers, not filming seamstresses weeping with emotion as their work is showcased, or possibly ripped to pieces. I personally fall into the former camp, so no matter how much you question the worth versus the cost or roll your eyes with puritan disgust at the vanity of it all, I won’t be swayed.
Context does a lot for fashion. I’m not just talking about the world outside the tent, or salon, or wherever designers have positioned their gilt chairs for this season, but about what other designers are showing in their salon/garage/specially-erected plexiglass cube (depends on budget). Of course, part of the dance of fashion is solipsism. Or maybe megalomania. It’s rare you see designers at each others’ shows: Tim Blanks and the team of style.com were trying to interview Joseph Altuzarra, attending the Balenciaga show designed by his friend Alexander Wang, but were constantly interrupted by well-wishers. Most said something along the lines of “I didn’t expect to see you here!”
It isn’t Mothering Sunday until May in Italy – at least, not officially. But Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana care naught for that kind of stuff. The Sunday of every Milanese womenswear week is traditionally Dolce day, but this time they made it mother’s day, too. “Viva La Mamma” they called their show – in English, it translates oddly to “Hurray for Mum” – less Italian romance, more the post-war jolly hockey sticks Enid Blyton school of British children’s literature.
Raf Simons’ latest Dior collection marched out across the square dais of Tokyo’s Ryōgoku sumo hall – an arena more akin to fat men slogging it out in underpants than thin women trying to sell us expensive ones. This is Dior’s contribution to a season most of the world dubs pre-Fall – the no-man’s season that lies between spring/summer and autumn/winter.
How long will fashion journalists feel the need to explain that? Possibly a good while longer if houses continue to come up with inventive names to mask the issue they all seem to have with “pre”.
The coupling of great clothes and a great show, where neither one outshines the other, is very rare. It’s all the more remarkable, then, that Raf Simons’ formula for his eponymous label seems such a sure-fire hit. I tried to think back to a Simons show that hasn’t worked, gloriously. Then I realised this was his business’ twentieth anniversary. I couldn’t think of a single instance.
There’s a trend right now for fashion houses to show the collections we still dub Cruise in far-flung locales. I’m writing this in the airport in Dubai, following Chanel’s show; a week ago Dior Cruise-ed to New York and chugged us from Manhattan to Brooklyn on a chic branded ferry; last summer, that house showed in Monaco, coincidentally the site of Louis Vuitton’s inaugural Cruise show this weekend.
It’s odd seeing a Dior show in New York. Namely, because it all feels so very Parisian. Actually, it’s Parisian per se – which conjures up images of chi chi little pied-de-poule suits and veiled hats, baguettes, breton stripes, clipped poodles, that ooh-la-la Francophile shtick – but reminiscent of the Dior we see in Paris. There was the same stripped-back set, this time an expanse of white catwalk and a metallic mirrored backdrop reflecting the scene like an idealised Hudson River. We were watching Cruise, after all. The real Hudson was more Dior grey than mirror, in reality, but even that fitted the identity of the house.
I bet people wonder what fashion editors do during the “off season”: write dodgy novels, maybe? Shop? Painstakingly plan ensembles to be crated and shipped ready for the next round of shows, when said eds are released from their pen, like the rabid hounds that shred unwanted visitors to Mr Burns’ mansion in The Simpsons? Only fashion editors voraciously attack and devour garments, and sometimes designers, rather than intruders.
We think of Dior as a house built on evening wear – the French call that flou, which, as the name implies, denotes garments with a sense of fluidity and lightness. Even if a Dior ball gown was anything else. But Dior’s most famous fashion image is of la Tailleur Bar. It’s one of those house codes that Raf Simons has been fixated on since he began redesigning Dior in 2012. Hence the fact the Bar suit’s jacket, the nip-waisted, thrust-hipped silhouette originally cut in tussore silk by Pierre Cardin (a tailor at Dior before setting up under his own steam) appears again and again, insistently, in his collections, cut in everything from grain de poudre to denim.
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