We know that Raf Simons’ Christian Dior is all about conscious progression – moving forward with one eye on the past and one on the future – and this idea of advancement was certainly present at the Autumn/Winter 2013 couture show. Simons spoke of his desire to ‘free up couture’ in this collection, and he has certainly succeeded, but not in simple terms. He has opened up couture, releasing it from its elite cage and pushing it away from affectation and towards accessibility. But accessible does not mean straightforward when it comes to this collection. Simons has taken our idea of freedom and turned it upside-down.
Simons took inspiration from different parts of the globe, from the Americas and Asia to Europe and Africa. The show boasted obi-style belts over trench coats, tribal patterns paired with elbow-length gloves, and dresses with billowing skirts of pleating. The components of culture incorporated into couture were brazen but never slapdash: the show stretched the confines of convention without compromising clean lines or impeccable tailoring.
Looks were ladylike in silhouette – all nipped-in waists and long sleeves, with delicate collarbones arching over strapless necklines – but scorching in the spotlight, with a bright colour palette and innovative use of texture. Juxtaposition was abundant: a choker of pearls framed an entirely see-through gown in one look, and a spiked PVC corset cinched a sequin frock in another. Eradication of couture tradition was also seen as another nod to Simons’ concept of freedom. Hints of professional work wear were present – a white button-down here, a black blazer sleeve there – only to be systematically destroyed: the button-down interrupted by bands of sheer PVC, and the blazer morphing into a kimono with an open slash of skin.
In short, Simons depicted the idea of freedom as synonymous with complication. The rigorous gates of couture were opened, driving tradition and modernity together: different cultures, different sensibilities, forced to sit side-by-side. The collection at first glance may not seem cohesive, but the indisputable uniqueness of each look – each one a reinvention of what we have come to expect from couture – pulls together the two sides of the spectrum. Complicated and intricate? Yes. But still wearable, accessible, modern: in a word, free.