Raf Simons presented his sophomore couture collection for Christian Dior this week, and the stakes were high — yet so was the subsequent praise. However, there’s a sheen of tentativeness wrapped around the mostly clean and airy aesthetic he’s bringing to the house. Where Dior’s dynamic yet disgraced previous designer John Galliano was a flame-thrower, Simons is more like a Gerhard Richter candle — beautiful, but flickering and transparent.
Then again, maybe two seasons isn’t enough to define oneself, especially when said task is to be among the world’s highest regarded couturiers. But missteps in this collection, small though they may be, weren’t big enough to damage it. Lime-green tights under a jet coat, with pink wildflowers embroidered on the nude lapel, and a full-bodied mauve skirt ribbed in free-form piping and wrapped in pink pansy appliqués felt just the slightest bit under-conceived, despite the major-league stage.
Yet where Simons had a surer hand, the results were exceptional — achingly romantic reminders of springtime meadows so very far away from New York’s current deep freeze. A tall, sheer black column bifurcated by dusty-pink pansies (again) and a more vivid, neon-yellow iteration of the flower took a fair amount of guts, both for the designer and its eventual wearer. Likewise for the tangerine baby’s breath sewn like stardust across an otherwise crisp white dress and jacket combo. Simons is growing on us, and there’s a ways to go, but he will get there.
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