The prefix trans- means, among other things, "beyond" and "changing thoroughly." There's not much more you need to know about Raf Simons' show for Christian Dior today than that this was, according to his show notes, "Trans Dior."
Of course, that's not strictly true. Whether you actually need to know it or not, you might like to know that the collection represented a startling dissection of Christian's codes, and an equally striking injection of Raf's. The bifurcated Bar jacket that launched the show was the barest statement of intent. And he's always liked badges and insignia—the emblems of clubs, gangs, tribes, youth cults—so it was fascinating to see him apply them to a clubhouse as heavily codified as Christian Dior.
Equally, Simons took his own fascination with slogans, gave it a distinctly surreal spin, and embroidered it all over dresses printed with hyper-real iterations of classic Dior flora. "Alice Garden" read one such slogan, and suddenly everything fell into place: The setting for the show, a psychedelic farrago of plant life real and fake, was the wonderland into which Alice fell. We were all down the rabbit hole. "Primrose path" read another embroidered slogan. As Raf himself wondered after his show, where might that path lead?
In this case, it most definitely ended up in a world where, like Alice, Dior had topsy-turvied. Ladylike pleats went sideways, Dior's pretty garden was toned toxic, seaweed beading crept eerily over shoulders and around throats. Even an otherwise lovely shirtdress in a light gray wool was bound in the indignity of a metallic-pink bustier. Something about that contrast between classic and crass felt like a clue to what Simons was up to: Respect for the past is all well and good, but the future won't wait (a metallic-pink bustier standing in, in this case, for fabulous things to come). He's always been urgent like that. And yet, given that Simons is not one of those couturiers who was born with a needle and thread in their hot little hands, his remarkable instinct for form and color revealed him here as a natural upholder of fashion's fundamentals: silk skirts that ballooned on the hips shouldn't have worked but did, with able assistance from startling combinations of green and ice pink, orange and lilac.
Toward the end, Vlada Roslyakova appeared in a Bar trouser suit, the classic Dior silhouette, but when she turned, the jacket's flaring hip had been sliced into a bustle of acid-floral-printed pleats. The Bar silhouette was also sprinkled through a final parade of strapless silver jacquard dresses. In another era, they'd probably have been called cocktail dresses, but they were metal, and each woman was wearing one of Raf's emblems, as if they were members of a secret society. Simons' Women? After Prada in Milan, and Rick Owens yesterday, it's fair to say that the tribes of fashion are in mighty shape.