The Designer On His Dior Debut
Raf Simons has been remarkably upbeat all week. You might imagine the pressure of a debut on Christian Dior’s haute couture stage would weigh heavy on someone who made his rep as the shaman of modern menswear, but he was in fist-pumpin’, high-fivin’, kid-in-a-candy-store form when we crossed paths at Dior HQ the other day. You dream, and you have the elves to turn that dream into crystalline reality. Who wouldn’t feel good? Still, I thought it was charming that Raf brought Cris Brodahl paintings from his Antwerp, Belgium, apartment to make his post-show interview room feel a little more like home. Oh, and about those interviews…
You’ve never done interviews on camera before. That’s a big change of heart.
I guess so. It’s been 17 years, and it’s fantastic to come in a place where you’re finally well understood. That’s probably a huge difference. Plus the possibility to have ideas realized almost automatically—I’ve never experienced that before.
It was a wonderful show, but I can’t say I’m surprised. There was something so purely logical about it.
I think so, yes. I’ve been very much involved with the period that Christian Dior defined, 1947 to 1957, and it seemed to me very normal to jump into it and work with that, to work with the archive and see how it can be modernized. And also to change the psychology of people who are interested in couture. The way I’ve been looking at it so far is as a still image, something you look at for that moment. I think lots of people see it as a still, an image from the red carpet. I want to make it more dynamic, appeal to a person who has a different energy. A younger person, in mind, not necessarily in age. And I think couture is very much about curating something unique for women. Fashion is so mass-produced now; I hope there will come a refocus on how people see couture. And I would also hope for a new focus on the craft.
What struck me in the show was the tension between classic couture tropes and a new take on them.
I’m attracted by both. Take things from the archives, then reenergize them in acid yellow or electric blue, colors that weren’t part of the Christian Dior aesthetic. I like to juxtapose elements.
In a way, it’s a paradox. You need to be reverent, but also irreverent, to move forward.
It’s mind-blowing when you start investigating what is done here. But I want to approach it with a new energy. I’m interested to see how people will pick up on it.
How important do you think it is that you’re an outsider?
I don’t really know. I know I was seen as avant-garde. Maybe that’s why I look at it a little more differently. I’m not frozen by it. I make suggestions. My challenge is to find a beautiful balance: to make women beautiful, to make a woman dream to wear a beautiful outfit. The show was about beauty in a natural way. It was very freeing; it offered a lot of possibilities. That’s why I didn’t want it story-based. Think of it as a blueprint.