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Christian Dior Pre Fall 2016: Review

After Raf Simons left Christian Dior, the historic house announced that the in-house team would be designing the next three collections. The fashion world has been collectively holding their breath in anticipation: until now. The very first post-Simons collection is here, and fashion editor Em Odesser has lots to say. 

    You know how when a tragedy strikes, the solemn public will share accounts of how they’ll never forget where they were when they heard the news? Excuse the cliche - but my reaction to the news that Raf Simons was leaving Dior will forever be ingrained in my memory.  I adored his reign at the house, and as I ventured into the fashion world five or so years ago, Raf’s journey was broadcasted everywhere. By the time I saw Dior and I, the documentary chronicling his first collection at the house, I was deep over my head in the high-fashion waters and happy to drown in one more fairy tale. Five or so months later, when I saw the words on my Tumblr dashboard “I can’t believe Raf’s leaving!”, I felt gutted. A quick Google search confirmed the news, and I gasped so loudly that the other people in my classroom thought I had been shot. I’m not exaggerating.

    Needless to say, I was wary of what would happen to the brand. Raf’s departure was right in the midst of fashion’s musical chairs game, where aesthetics and designers swapped houses in the blink of a Marni-esque spider lash, and the days ahead were filled with sleepless nights until news broke that the in-house team, the team whose escapades had been documented in the film, would be designing the next three collections. I was relieved, but something tugged my curiosity: would the seamstresses and tailors who had worked with Raf for season after season play with their freedom, changing the codes of a historic house as so many new designers were, or stay staunchly traditional?  Yesterday, when I was finally notified by what else, another Tumblr post, that the collection had been posted, my heart, once again, started racing.

    As I clicked through the collection, any buried fears dissipated. The traditional aesthetics that Raf had employed, whether from his overall ‘reign’ or just the most recent show, were still present. It was like a reunion - there were the fair isle sweaters, the heavy buttons on feminine silhouettes, the bar jackets (which Raf was always so serious about adding in, to pay homage to Monsieur Dior himself), the masterful tailoring - just each in darker and more somber forms. The codes were there, no doubt about it, but the styling was different. The cropped-at-the-ribs knit sweater moved from cobalt or baby blue to navy and hip length. The subtle decolletage, perhaps the only visible skin in the bar suit besides the obvious face, hands, and ankles, was covered by strategic lace. Raf’s Dior muse, as perfectly exemplified by the fourteen year old Sofia Mechtener, was a summer’s breeze: young, flitting, ethereal. Now, with veteran Julia Hafstrom wearing the pieces, the line becomes sleeker, a little less girlish. Miss Dior feels less Lolita, less coy - she has, perhaps, matured since Raf’s exit (but doesn’t the end of every relationship age us all a tad?)

Left, top to bottom: Pieces from (respectively), Dior's SS16, FW15, and Resort 2016 collections - from Raf Simons' years at Dior.  Right: Dior Pre-Fall 2016, the first collection after Simons' departure

Left, top to bottom: Pieces from (respectively), Dior's SS16, FW15, and Resort 2016 collections - from Raf Simons' years at Dior.

Right: Dior Pre-Fall 2016, the first collection after Simons' departure

    I’ll admit the focus has shifted, with the team placing a new and major emphasis on formal wear, animal prints, and that buttery, rich leather that had slyly popped up at the latest couture show. But given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that there are a few differences.

    Obviously, the team won’t carry on Raf’s exact vision - it’s unrealistic to expect them to. But the overall looks were consistent with his traditional aesthetic, which is more than a relief. It’s nice to know even as some storied brand’s aesthetics and signatures flip and flop, Dior’s transition into new frontiers will be gradual - and in our current stage of burnout, this is a much-needed step in the right direction.