Dior’s creative director, Raf Simons, is considered by many to be a design genius who has done some wonderful things with the Dior brand. Certainly, Simons is creative, but he played it relatively safe when he first took over the designing reigns at the house three years ago and has slowly been introducing his own touch and interpretation a little more heavily with each successive collection. Today’s autumn/winter collection is the boldest move he’s made yet and, perhaps predictably, not everyone is all that happy. Yet, when one considers how intentional Simons has been about building on the Dior DNA I really don’t think there’s much room for complaint. Moving the brand along contemporary trends and technologies is necessary to remain profitable and viable in an incredibly competitive market. Let’s consider some of the stronger design elements in this collection.
- Long coats. Yes, we’ve seen them all over this season, but this is Dior we’re talking about. Raf gives his a little extra punch by reaching back and pulling out a 1960s house silhouette that drapes perfectly with a Jackie Kennedy Onassis level of glamor. Want to push it even more? There is a green-colored fur version that promises to turn heads.
- Masculine tailoring. Again, a Dior standard, slightly updated this season with a trouser that is cropped higher than most, and double breasted jackets with high set buttons in the brightest of fall colors. One orange suit midway through the collection is especially attractive in ways we didn’t think orange could pull off.
- Psychedelic prints. Simons pulls again from the 60s aesthetic with a set of psychedelic prints with a strong abstract plasma feel to them. This is perhaps the strongest point of contention. When he uses the prints on skin-tight body suits the effect can be a bit overwhelming. For a person with a strong personality, this is no big deal. The bigger and brighter the print, the more people notice. For those who would just as soon avoid the spotlight, though, these prints are exactly not what they want to wear. The influence even shows up in overcoats and furs, though considerably more subtle there than in the jumpsuits.
- Strappy skirts. Another polarising element, opinions on this one seem to be divided along a loose age line. People over 35 are less likely to be enthused about a look they say too strongly resembles a cheerleading outfit.
- Full-length boots. Raf introduced this look to the Dior line last season. The boots are made of a synthetic that acts a lot like latex but doesn’t sweat as much or peel off layers of skin when worn without hose. The same material is also used in the lower-topped boots in the early part of the collection. When the print on the boots matches the print in the dresses the effect can be a bit much for the eyes.
- Printed mesh. No one works as well with pliable mesh as does Raf and he uses it a great deal this season to most satisfying results. I know, you see the word “mesh” and you think of something slightly naughty. Not here. These light-weight but well-insulating dresses are more appropriate for the season than they appear. You’ll want to give these a much closer look.
The popular cliche is, “haters gonna hate,” and Raf gave his detractors more fodder than in previous seasons. However, he also does a lot to move the label forward without horribly sacrificing the house DNA, something not every designer has done (casting a glance in the general direction of Saint Lauren). Dior is moving forward. Stronger bets are that Raf knows what he’s doing. You might want to invest now.