PARIS, France — If the turmoil in fashion persists, it’s likely we’ll be seeing more so-called “placeholder” collections, stopgaps designed in anonymity by the atelier while the label bosses hunt around for a marquee name. But the collection offered for Christian Dior on Friday by studio heads Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux raised some interesting points. For one thing, Meier and Ruffieux came out at the end to accept the audience’s applause, so they aren’t exactly anonymous. They have even established something of a signature with the off-the-shoulder slouchiness that they first showed in the couture collection in January.
Another thing: there was no sense of stopgap in the scale of the production. The key players in Raf Simons’ tenure are still on board.Continuity prevails. And that makes you wonder what a customer is aware of. How many women outside the fashion bubble knew about the abrupt changes at the house? The label still says Dior, just as it always has. Anyone who wants a piece of that action will find plenty to please in the collection Meier and Ruffieux showed. You in the market for a bar jacket? Take your pick. Look 1: black wool, a little relaxed (the duo eased up on the silhouette with January), paired with a zipped top in black satin. Nice skirt to go with it too. Look 7: this one in crepe, bigger buttons, longer skirt. Look 40: a Bar suit in off-white crepe. And on and on. Anyway, you get that picture.
Elsewhere, the duo polished the promise of their couture show. The retro flavour worked better for ready-to-wear. There was an emphasis on the shoulder — not just the asymmetric drape, but a lot of portrait neckline details (a lot of zipped tops underneath too). It was a precise, unfussy look which, again, would not strike a Dior customer as out of sync with anything she’d encountered before.
So what happens if these clothes sell well (and, given their wearability, that seems quite likely)? Would Dior’s puppetmasters persevere with their search for a star? Would they accept that they might just as easily go forward by maintaining the current status quo, on the understanding that it’s the clothes that sell, not the names? And what would that mean for designer culture? Götterdämmerung for the stars? There’s a lot of talent buried in the backrooms. The current change-partners-and-dance climate could usher in a new golden age of the ingénue.