PARIS, France — “Softly, softly, softly futuristic.” Raf Simons was quietly emphatic about the collection he showed for Dior on Friday. “With everything going on, I feel like going back to calmness, purity and romanticism.” By “everything,” Simons seemed to mean the ludicrous pace of fashion now. He talked about “rejecting immediacy.” That sounded perverse on one level for a designer like him, who has been celebrated for his ability to define the moment, but it also made perfect sense. You could imagine the burden of such contemporaneity being an incentive to seek a more tolerable alternative.
In Simons’ case, that meant a collection that was built on something as basic and timeless as white cotton underwear, although that scarcely does justice to the fragile finery the designer showed. A top and shorts in sheer cotton organdie visibly underpinned almost every outfit. Like a shapely black bar jacket, with a delicate pleated hem. Or languid, bias-cut organza dresses. Or the parkas that added a masculine note.
The effect of this was an odd combination of innocence and eroticism. The theme from Picnic at Hanging Rock, Australian director Peter Weir’s classic about the mysterious disappearance of some schoolgirls during a class outing in 1900, was playing as the audience took their seats, and that movie’s peculiar atmosphere permeated Simons’ presentation, starting with the massive, flower-covered mound inside which the show took place. The designer conceded that extravagant scale is now expected of a Dior presentation, but there was something quite mystical, almost pagan, about this situation. “The Holy Mountain”, soundtrackist Michel Gaubert called it.
Gaubert’s contribution was New Order’s Elegia, a long, spiralling instrumental that offered a meditative counterpoint to Simons’ clothes. The music’s notes of discord matched items like cropped Shetland handknits layered over more sheer organdie — their roughness deliberately jarring — an intrusive echo of another world. Maybe this was what Simons meant when he talked about the future: unexpected connections, yielding new visions. “A fragment of what is to come,” he murmured. Which suggests he knows exactly what the future holds.