June 30, 2007
"Legacy" is a loaded word in the fashion industry. Baton-passing inevitably leaves the newcomer trying to balance firmly established loyalties and expectations with his or her own ethos. The death or retirement of the marquee name makes things a little easier, but Hedi Slimane is far from dead or retired in the conventional sense. He was the elephant in the elegant rooms of the nineteenth-century mansion on Avenue Foch, where Kris Van Assche showed his debut collection for Dior Homme. Slimane made the label a byword for a look as impactfully new in its own way as Christian's 1947 original. His successor offered three tableauxthe mannequins frozen stiff in poses that were perverse reminders of Irving Penn's classic group shot of couture modelsrepresenting options for morning, day, and evening. The artificiality of at least two of those distinctions made for plenty of crossover, especially when Van Assche's key look was so inescapable: body-hugging white shirt with tiny Peter Pan collar tucked into pants of a volume surpassing enough to evoke memories of MC Hammer. (One pair for evening devolved from high-waisted flat-front to a cascade of pleats.) The designer's affection for the eighties was also evident in double-breasted jackets with an asymmetrical one-button closing. They were reminiscent of the New Wave brand Parachute. Another tricksy feature was a jacket lapel with an origami fold. But interspersed with these indulgences were sober, sleek suits with a little peaked lapel. This duality loaned Van Assche's debut a somewhat schizo feel, which means things could go off in any direction. Is that promise for the future? We live in hope.