A new era for Christian Dior: Designer Raf Simons wins over critics with beautifully modern couture debut

A new era for Christian Dior: Designer Raf Simons wins over critics with his beautifully modern couture debut

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UPDATED:

15:55 GMT, 3 July 2012

The moment model Julia Nobis opened Christian Dior, wearing a chic black hourglass-shaped tuxedo jacket and modern cigarette pants, the word couture, and what it conjures, was instantly redefined.

After a lengthy period in designer
limbo, the luxury label has once again stepped to the forefront of
fashion, with Raf Simons' debut Dior collection in Paris this morning signalling a new era for haute couture.

The 44-year-old Belgian native, who left the helm of Jil Sander in April, took his first command of the house, only the fourth designer to do so since the days of Christian Dior himself, in front of an A-list audience.

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Boldly refined: Mr Simons, 44, effectively lead the way for a new era in a clothing arena famously known for its over-the-top bells and whistles

Boldly refined: Mr Simons, 44, effectively lead the way for a new era in a clothing arena famously known for its over-the-top bells and whistles

Opposites attract: With chic tuxedos, modern cigarette pants, bright colours and lady-like glamour, Raf Simons refined the word couture for his debut Christian Dior collection

Opposites attract: With chic tuxedos, modern cigarette pants, bright colours and lady-like glamour, Raf Simons refined the word couture for his debut Christian Dior collection

Opposites attract: With chic tuxedos, modern
cigarette pants, bright colours and lady-like glamour, Raf Simons
refined the word couture for his debut Christian Dior collection

Celebrity guests like Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Lawrence and Sharon Stone sat alongside some of the most respected names in fashion for Mr Simons' polished debut collection, held in a private house on the Avenue d’Iena.

Azzedine Alaa, Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace, and Diane von Furstenberg were among many designers who were eager to witness what the fashion world has waited with sincere bated breath to see.

And he didn't disappoint. Mr Simons evoked emotional and intellectual reactions in a collection that was modern but timeless, feminine but structured, and voluminous, but
minimally modest all at once – effectively leading the way for a new aesthetic in a rarefied
clothing arena famously known for its over-the-top bells and whistles.

New silhouettes: The Dior couture collection was both modern and timeless, feminine and structured, and voluminous, but minimally modest, all at once

New silhouettes: The Dior couture collection was both modern and timeless, feminine and structured, and voluminous, but minimally modest, all at once

New silhouettes: The Dior fall/winter 2012 couture collection was
both modern and timeless, feminine and structured, and voluminous, but
minimally modest, all at once

Mixing and matching: From the streamlined cigarette pants that opened the show to the architectural peplums, Mr Simons' clothes were both modern and historic

Mixing and matching: From the streamlined cigarette pants that opened the show to the architectural peplums, Mr Simons' clothes were both modern and historic

Mixing and matching: From the streamlined cigarette pants that opened the show to the architectural peplums, Mr Simons' clothes were both modern and historic

Haute couture, while always lovely to
look at, is reserved for a handful of wealthy elite who usually demand
their money's worth of French lace, mounds of tulle and decorative chain
mail.

Mr Simons' clothes, however, are so
simple that an untrained eye could easily brush them off for their lack
of traditional couture majesty.

But his awe-inducing secret, which
makes his clothes seem at once accessible and also other-worldly, is in the
small, refined gestures; and their slight, but for those take notice,
luxurious, details.

Old world Dior in a new age: With his bold use of fuchsia, canary yellow and red; the long, fitted sleeves, and dresses with fitted bodices and sweeping, full skirts, his 54 outfits put his own twist on the first decade of Dior

Old world Dior in a new age: With his bold use of fuchsia, canary yellow and red; the long, fitted sleeves, and dresses with fitted bodices and sweeping, full skirts, his 54 outfits put his own twist on the first decade of Dior

Old world Dior in a new age: With his bold use of fuchsia, canary yellow and red; the long, fitted sleeves, and dresses with fitted bodices and sweeping, full skirts, his 54 outfits put his own twist on the first decade of Dior

Subtle luxuries: Mr Simons clothes are sometimes so simple that an untrained eye could easily brush them off for their lack of traditional couture majesty

Subtle luxuries: Mr Simons' clothes are sometimes so simple that an untrained eye could easily brush them off for their lack of traditional couture majesty

From the six cigarette pants that opened the show; to the bold use of fuchsia, canary yellow and red, the long, fitted sleeves, architectural peplums and archival tweed that peppered the middle; and then to the dresses with fitted bodices and voluminous full skirts, each one of his 54 outfits made a connection to the first decade of Dior.

He cleverly filtered obvious
historic Dior references through
his own modern aesthetic, such as the aforementioned opening tuxedo jacket, which was shaped after Dior's iconic Bar jacket, the backbone of the classic 1947 New Look collection, and his widespread use of pockets, another Dior signature.

He updated Dior's signature grey tweeds
by giving the material's coats and dresses, with their tulip skirts and geometric shoulders, a more structured, rather than
overly feminine, feel.

Tweedle dumb, tweedle dee: He updated Dior's signature grey tweeds by giving the material's coats and dresses, with their tulip skirts and geometric shoulders, a more structured, rather than overly feminine, feel

Tweedle dumb, tweedle dee: He updated Dior's signature grey tweeds by giving the material's coats and dresses, with their tulip skirts and geometric shoulders, a more structured, rather than overly feminine, feel

Tweedle dumb, tweedle dee: He updated Dior's signature grey tweeds by giving the material's coats and dresses, with their tulip skirts and geometric shoulders, a more structured, rather than overly feminine, feel

Tweedle dumb, tweedle dee: He updated Dior's signature grey tweeds
by giving the material's coats and dresses, with their tulip skirts and geometric shoulders, a more structured, rather than
overly feminine, feel

The futuristic princess: Mr Simons' awe-inducing secret, which makes his clothes seem at once accessible and other-worldly, is in the small, refined gestures; and their slight, but also overtly luxurious, details

The futuristic princess: Mr Simons' awe-inducing secret, which makes his clothes seem at once accessible and other-worldly, is in the small, refined gestures; and their slight, but also overtly luxurious, details

The futuristic princess: Mr Simons' awe-inducing secret, which
makes his clothes seem at once accessible and other-worldly, is in the
small, refined gestures; and their slight, but also overtly luxurious, details

Floral beauty: Each room was adorned, from floor to ceiling, in a solid tapestry of one million fresh flowers: roses, delphinium, orchids and peonies

Floral beauty: Each room was adorned, from floor to ceiling, in a solid tapestry of one million fresh flowers: roses, delphinium, orchids and peonies

Simply, he married the past and the future seamlessly.

Like the long, organza and tulle
dresses, which surprised – their backs embroidered with delicate flowers in one color
and the fronts in a more futuristic, metallic tone.

And the modern ball gowns that walked next to a skintight,
long-sleeve black dress, with a deep V-neckline and full,
just-above-the-ankle grazing skirt – nonchalantly, but strikingly, paired a pair of electric neon pink
pumps peeking out the bottom.

The model's lips were painted bright coral red, their sleek hair perfectly parted in the middle, tucked behind their ears and placed effortlessly away from their shoulders; minimally modern but timeless.

Jewellery was kept to a minimum, with futuristic silver belts cinching princess ballgowns, and thick, heavy chokers adorning only a handful of delicate necks; feminine but structured.

Sharon Stone outside the Ritz, on her way to the Dior couture show in Paris

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Vogue's Anna Wintour outside the Ritz, on her way to the Dior couture show in Paris

A-list audience: Sharon Stone (left), Jennifer Lawrence (middle) and Anna Wintor (right) all attended Raf Simons' debut collection for Christian Dior in Paris

And as for shoes, Mr Simons led the
way for pointy, low heeled pumps that accentuate the clothes just enough
without taking away each outfit's focus.

Each room was filled, from floor to
ceiling, in a solid tapestry of one million fresh flowers: roses,
delphinium, orchids and peonies made up three colourful salons, one in blue, white for another, and a speckled mixture of yellow and pink for the last.

As Cathy Horyn wrote in her review for the New York Times: 'Christian Dior loved flowers and cultivated them in his country garden. Mr Simons loves intense color.'

Unanimous applause: Raf Simons acknowledges the audience at the end of his show for Christian Dior during the Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2012-2013 on July 2, 2012 in Paris

Unanimous applause: Raf Simons acknowledges the audience at the end of his first show for Christian Dior in Paris

UK Grazia called Mr Simons'
silhouettes for Dior 'fuss-free and buzzing with a youthful energy,' while Vogue
UK likened the show's setting to a scene from Alice in
Wonderland: 'A notion that perhaps aptly sums up what he did today:
something magic'.

Ms Horyn concluded: 'He gets the most and the best out of
couture, and this is just the start.'

VIDEO: Raf Simons wins over critics at Dior couture show

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