Before the start of the Dior Homme show, one front-row attendee fretted that the runway, stained with slush from the shoes of the crowd, would sound an off note. She needn't have worried. Just before the first model came out, the baize was pulled up to reveal a gleaming, pristine runway below; like the rest of the set, it was pure iPod white.
That's a marker of Kris Van Assche's spit-shined Dior Homme, where rigor is a cardinal virtue. He was making, he said after the show, rigorous clothes for the future—not 50 years into it, but "fashion for tomorrow." He leaned on technical fabrics and fabric treatments more than ever before, and honed his palette and silhouette. Tomorrow's suiting is a sleek, shaved version of today's. It zips where we might button, whether on a suit jacket or an ultrathin cardigan. It speeds around the curves so fast that it requires safety belts, which circle many of the pieces with nickel buckles.
Van Assche was musing on the codes of menswear as a sort of received wisdom—almost literally as a genetic code, ready for the modifying. History provides some of the raw material, but so does parentage: in his case, Dior Homme, which was built on the slick black suit. The shadow of Van Assche's predecessor, Hedi Slimane, stretched out over the proceedings, more than usual as the fashion world prepares for his first Saint Laurent menswear show. Van Assche was adamant about his own changes to the house DNA. He swatted away the description "skinny," the constant tag of Slimane's Dior Homme; in its place he offered "sporty."
However you described it, the collection was impressive—maybe more impressive than lovable—in its pared-down essentialism. It was certainly beautifully realized. The zippered and buckled suits and outerwear were clothes with the fat burned off: the most basic of basic black, white, and navy (though a few had pinstripes in gray and Dior's bloodshot red), fitted to the millimeter. No wonder the designer was referencing Andrew Niccol's Gattaca.
One risk of evolving so far, so fast is that you sideline desire. There was austerity here—Van Assche preferred to call it "calmness," in contrast to the world's present chaos—but that's not a quality to quicken the pulse. But if he didn't always attend to the heart, he didn't neglect the mind. What was the significance of the new insignia, a triangle circumscribed within a circle, that appeared on suits and sweaters? "You're supposed to ask," Van Assche said. "That's the point."