Kris Van Assche opened his Dior Homme show today with three tuxedos in the same vibrant shade of blue mohair. The first was classic, the second was straight fashion, the third was edgy fashion (cropped, with a toggle fastening in anticipation of the show's nautical subtext). The trio immediately established the dialogue between bohemia and bourgeois that would dominate the collection. But, as Van Assche saw it, that was akin to the inclinations of Christian Dior. "Though Dior loved Parisian nightlife, he also loved his escape into nature," he said. After last season's lily of the valley, here there were graffitied roses. But it was the seaside where Dior felt he could really let go, so, appropriately, the collection's most striking elements had to do with the sea: the lifeboat-man's bright yellow slicker, the gothic revision of the boat shoe, and all the sailor stripes. They had a real feel that contrasted sharply with the bland classicism of the tailored pieces, which is why Van Assche cleverly mashed them together—a buzzy bee-striped vest under a pinstriped suit jacket, for instance. He gave more artful expression to the bohemia versus bourgeois debate when he followed a totally unconstructed suit in washed denim with another suit in pristine white denim, unwashed and structured to a razor sharpness. The contrast was a little like the set, a crossroads where Van Assche imagined "different types of men could meet."

Van Assche's infatuation with tradition borders on the romantic. He was thrilled by a letter he found in the Dior archives, penned by Christian himself. "Traditions have to be maintained," Dior wrote. "In troubled times like ours, we must maintain these traditions, which are our luxury and the flower of our civilization." Van Assche loved the words so much he reproduced them as a scribble print on a shirt and a suit jacket. Dior's sign-off was used as a detail on a shirt collar. Like Dior, Van Assche had letting go in mind, but in an elegant way. His models walked with hands in pockets. "This relaxed mood is new for me," he said. But to be perfectly honest, he could relax a whole lot more. Hands in pockets? Try hands in the air like they just don't care. Now that's relaxed.