September 28, 2012 6:20 pm

Raf Simons simply embraces the sensual

Dior past and future come together in the designer’s debut ready-to-wear collection

And they’re off! The first hugely anticipated event of Paris Fashion Week finally occurred and the industry, which seemed to have been holding its collective breath since the start of the season, finally exhaled .

Raf Simons’ debut ready-to-wear collection for Christian Dior was a continuation of his couture show last July: a meshing of Dior past and future in a finely woven gauntlet thrown down before the minimalism that has been marching through the fashion world. (Minimalism, in a bit of intra-designer politics, is at the core of his old brand, Jil Sander, where the return of the house’s founder led to his being ousted in February.)

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Vanessa Friedman

With these clothes Simons was, in effect, proving you don’t have to boil lushness away to find the essence of a garment or to be able to move freely in the world.

This was overt, in a statement that described the show as “breaking through the notion of ‘anti-sex’ attached to the restriction of minimalism . . . an embracing of the sexual, emotional, sensual and feminine.”

And it was covert, in clothes that married cool functionality to traditional extravagance in a meeting of equals.

So a classic Dior-moulded hip “Bar” jacket over skinny trousers became a mini tuxedo dress, the curves ever more exaggerated, and then lost its shoulders and sleeves to go strapless; elaborately draped iridescent organza “truncated ball gowns” with their skirts cut off were worn with black shorts; and grey wool coatdresses had shiny pleats inserted here and there, just to undermine expectations.

In the end, a series of rose print duchesse ball skirts were teamed with very thin black silk cashmere leotard tops.

The latter is a look Simons has shown before, which doesn’t make it any less appealing. Still, maybe next season he’ll have another idea. And if things went a bit wobbly in the middle (which they did) with fluorescent sheeny trapeze dresses that were more luridly disco than subversively demure, as a whole the collection felt relevant, a meaningful achievement for a couture house these recessionary days, when the point of the aesthetic form is perennially called into question.

In those clothes, those girls could motor. Vroom.

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