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Raf Simons takes Dior’s nature theme up a notch with ‘something more liberated’

As one of fashion’s natural minimalists, Raf Simons, Christian Dior’s artistic director, isn’t exactly in his usual territory with florals. So, for his autumn/winter 2015 collection, shown on Friday in Paris, he took a typically conceptual approach tack with nature. “I wanted the collection to deal with nature and femininity in a different way,” read the show notes. “Away from the garden and the flower, to something more liberated, dark and sexual.”

This intention was clear from the first outfit on the runway – a beautifully bias-cut silk dress, worn with calf-length patent boots. These boots, first seen in versions at the couture show in January, continued throughout the show – some of them were thigh high and patterned, making the models look like they were wearing particularly shiny tights.

Belgian designer Raf Simons’ ready to wear collection for Dior. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

Patent finishes – more associated with fetish clubs than famed French fashion houses – were a recurring theme on smart knee-length coats and tunics and skirts, chiming with Simons’ desire to up the sexual qualities of nature. Completing the picture was Dakota Johnson, star of 50 Shades of Grey, who sat on the front row.

Other pieces in the collection played with, as Simons said, “wildness, savagery and the overt masculinity in the way a woman might present herself”. Fox fur coats almost to the floor were the most explicit way this could be seen, but there were also curved patterns, like the waves in desert sand, on knitwear, and a colour palette that had grass green and soil browns on oversized wool coats. More off-piste from the nature theme, but pleasing, were tweed skirts slashed into strips from hip to knee, worn with smart office-appropriate shirts.

If his first collections had obvious nods to the heritage that comes from Dior, with versions of the Bar jacket and the full skirts of the New Look, Simons’ own stamp has been more evident recently. The theme of nature in this collection referred to Christian Dior’s use of leopard print in his first collection in 1947, but suits with boxy jackets and short trousers – not to mention those boots – have the clean lines and slightly edgy detail that are all Simons.

As was a soundtrack including British post-punk band Throbbing Gristle – hardly the obvious music choice for a house honed in 50s Parisian salons. But it was a combination that worked. After nearly three years at the helm of the house widely considered the jewel in the city’s fashion crown, Simons has Dior in its pomp once again.

His success shows where it matters most to a fashion brand – commercially. The sales figures have been robust during Simons’ tenure. Profits increased 13.4% in the first half of last year, to €747m (£540m). Couture, in particular, has flourished. Profits for this part of the business, the highest end of high-end fashion, increased 14% year on year. Simons’ shift from an insider favourite to a superstar designer will be clinched at the end of the this month when Dior and I, a film documenting his time at the house, will be released.

Belgian designer Raf Simons’ ready to wear collection for Dior. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

Jonathan Anderson’s sophomore collection for Loewe, shown in the Place de Fontenoy Unesco building on Friday, was assured. He used the soft leather that is Loewe’s trademark but ditched the brand’s bourgeois backstory of dressing Spanish royalty in favour of something vaguely scientific. See a leather lab coat and matching wide-legged trousers in a faded lilac or PVC trousers worn with long knitted waistcoat and safety goggle glasses. Blouson jackets and bat-winged dresses added to an 80s mood but the layering of different colours and textures made it feel new – the show notes referenced “a moment of realistic futurism”. Anderson’s confident post-show bow said it all. This was a strong look for Loewe’s future and he knew it.

This article was amended on 13 March 2015. An earlier version referred to Le Corbusier’s Unesco building. He was, rather, a member of the international panel of five who approved the plans drawn up by three other architects.

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