French haute couture reaches new heights at Christian Dior


Give me a famous French fashion house, and I’ll give you a weird and wonderful creative director.

Karl Largerfeld’s sunglasses, suits and blinding white hair for Chanel. Hedi Slimane’s bowl cut and staring eyes at Yves Saint Laurent. John Galliano’s unnervingly buff physique and luscious locks, formerly for Christian Dior.

Despite this, each season they pump out incredible collections that stay true to the legacies of their respective design houses.

A  faux-pas en France

Hannah Duke 03/07/12 Raf Simons Christian Dior debut

Sometimes, however, their bizarre ways get the better of them. After professing his love for Hitler online early last year, John Galliano was ousted from the position of creative director at Christian Dior.¹

Since March 2011, the famed French fashion house has been sailing with no one at the helm. In April this year, Belgian designer Raf Simons was named artistic director for haute couture, women’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections.²

While the collections for his eponymous men’s line have been odd, bewildering and everything in between, he assuaged fears with a stunning first collection for Dior.

A French icon

Founded in 1946 by its famed namesake, the House of Dior is one of the heavyweights of French design.³

In 1947, Dior changed the face of fashion worldwide, with his ‘New Look’ collection. Emerging from the postwar years and throwing off the ‘make do and mend’ mentality, Dior decided what the future was to look like. Cinched in waists were teamed with voluminous skirts and chic headwear.

The impact of his work was so great, that the iconic image of this collection still endures today. Since its inception, Dior has continued to keep up its tradition of reinvention rooted in classic design. The artistic directors of Dior have allowed the brand to develop and reach new heights, where other fashion houses find themselves stagnant.


Belgian expat takes the helm

The second day of Haute Couture Week in Paris saw a string of A-list celebrities lining up to see Raf Simons’ first couture offering as artistic director.


But it wasn’t Anna Wintour or Inès de la Fressange who topped the list of most impressive guests. Renowned designers Riccardo Tisci, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, Donatella Versace, Marc Jacobs, Olivier Theyskens and Azzedine Alaïa were all in attendance. It would seem that Simons has some important peers to impress.

A flower-filled mansion set the scene for a collection that was as simple as it was striking. Structured suiting sat alongside 3D florals, voluminous skirts and graphic tie-dye prints.

A disappointed French mob?


Not everyone felt their breath taken away, however. Pop Culture website Pedestrian declared that the collection was beautiful, but not breathtaking. “Compared with the high drama and spectacular showmanship of Dior’s visionary ousted couturier, John Galliano, the collection fell flat.”?

Fashionologie reporter Just Fenner remarked that, “Despite favorable reviews and warm accolades in general, the applause at the end of the show was described as ‘lackluster.’”?

I for one have always appreciated beauty in simplicity. And simplicity is often harder to perfect than opulence.

The perfect suit? Sounds simple, but is rather difficult to execute. I found Simons’ incarnation a consummate example of fine tailoring.


3D florals? They can be tacky or overdone. Simons, however, made them wearable.

While the idea of haute couture is perhaps not to be wearable, it’s refreshing to see a collection that can inspire people on a real level.

Hope for French evolution

As Pedestrian also remarked, “Once Simons becomes confident to push the boundaries of the brand’s traditions a little further, the future of Dior will be in safe hands.”?


Simons is known through his men’s collections for simplicity accentuated by overstated details. Silhouettes are sharp, but enlarged; or traditional but emblazoned with unconventional prints. His Men’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection, shown one week previously at Men’s Fashion week in Paris, is further evidence of this.


While highbrow fashion critics might choose to be underwhelmed, I choose to be inspired. Perhaps my failing is that I always choose to see the best in things.

One thing the masses cannot deny, however, is that Raf Simons is here for the long haul.

What do you think of his debut collection for Dior?

1. John Galliano fired by Christian Dior, on Pedestrian 02/03/12
2. Confirmed: Raf Simons to head up Christian Dior, on Pedestrian 10/04/12
3. Christian Dior, on Design Museum
4. Stars gather for Raf Simons’ elegant Dior debut, on Pedestrian 03/07/12
5. The Scene at Raf Simons’s Dior Couture Debut, Justin Fenner on Fashionologie 02/07/12

Image Credits:
1, 4, 5 & 7. Raf Simons makes his Dior debut, by Benoit Tessier/Reuters on The Guardian
2. John Galliano, by Markus Bollingmo on Flickr
3. The new look-Christian dior glamourdaze, via Pinterest
6. L – Raf Simons makes his Dior debut, by Benoit Tessier/Reuters on The Guardian, R – Stars gather for Raf Simons’ elegant Dior debut, on Pedestrian 03/07/12
8. Stars gather for Raf Simons’ elegant Dior debut, on Pedestrian 03/07/12


About the Contributor

Hannah Duke

“I’m a Melbourne-based journalist, editor, photographer, and blogger dreaming of la vie européenne. I love all things French except for the pigeons: film, food, literature, fashion, and I indulge in this passion as often as possible! Find me on Twitter, or Google+.”

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  1. Emmanuelle Tremolet Jul 9, 2012 at 8:12 PM - Reply

    Bravo à Raf Simons, c’est une collection très Christian Dior ! Le style Dior est bien présent, il y a dans cette collection une “justesse” dans l’élégance qui est très française.

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