You know that old industry chestnut defending the fashion show experience as something that is still sacred in this digital age; where the general consensus is that seeing the clothes in person, in motion, in situ and soundtracked can't be compared to the plethora of viewing options available to us - live streaming, instant images via Now Fashion and Twitter feed imagery/commentary? It's a line of defence that I do by and large, agree with, which is why I rarely talk about collections (from the main fashion weeks) that I haven't seen in person or have some background information on. Yet that belief often comes at odds with my fascination with what the general public think. I don't think people's opinions should be snuffed out with this attitude of "Well, I was invited to the show and therefore I have a more valid and worthy opinion than you all." What people say on Twitter, on Facebook, The Fashion Spot and on their blogs does collectively matter in the sense that you can gauge a very different sort of opinion that doesn't come with industry baggage. They're potential consumers. They could be diehard fans of the brand or completely indifferent to fashion. Their views come informed or uninformed at all different levels. To write off the lot of it is a extremely closeted attitude.
When Raf Simons debuted his haute couture for Dior in July, I along with the rest of the fashion loving community joined in on the banter as an outsider, not having attending the show. I was just another person viewing the images on Style.com, applying a very strict and cautiously optimistic viewpoint to looking at the collection. Even then I felt I was infringing on territory that didn't feel quite right without having seen any of it in person, but at the same time, I couldn't tear my eyes away from all the opinions coming in from all arenas. I couldn't stop reading all related comment threads, Tweets and followed the The Fashion Spot thread for a good week or so. It was divided and ranged from love to hate. It was interesting to see how the "hate" opinions were tinged with nostalgia for John Galliano. It was also interesting to see the "love" opinions doused with a knowledge and cult-following of Simons' menswear work through to his tenure at Jil Sander. I think I was sitting somewhere in the middle, with full belief in Simons as an innovative visionary, who needed time to settle into a house like Dior.
Then the ready to wear show came around at Paris Fashion Week and I was there in person, soaking up the blue room (that was where I was seated) with its well placed panes of transparent curtained windows. That middling opinion instantly veered sharply into "love", just two silhouettes in. The idea of Detroit House god Carl Craig as a soundtrack for a Christian Dior show was another factor in getting the thumbs up from me. That already chipped away any balanced opinion of mine. Every fabric and silhouette moved with a purpose that felt like the codes of Dior were undergoing 21st century shifts before our very eyes.
I was fortunate enough to watch the models turn twice so that I could see different angles of each outfit from my vantage point and so it was that every outfit felt powerful to me. Every waft of organza bubble, pleat and lightly sequinned chiffon looked masterful. The other simplistic thing that I though about during the show was of course that I wanted to wear the lot of it. When that selfish point of view comes into play, you can wave goodbye to unbiased perspective.
I wasn't even thinking about the significance of the bar jacket and A/H-lines. Or even the significance of Simons exploring this notion of "anti-sex". Deepened analysis of the motives and historical/cultural significance of the collection came much later, maybe up to five minutes after the show when you're in a throng of people backstage waiting to speak to Mr Simons.
I'm talking about the instant visceral thoughts that go through your head during the show. It was a pleasurable crescendo build up to see from the subtlety of tuxedo jackets and dresses to bubbling organzas cocooning the body to more jackets embedded with pleats and then finally to a whole passage of well-judged fabric experimentation. I predictably got very excited by the technical lace, the layering of iridescent organza over satin and the embellishments that looked like sea creatures swimming in an inky black jacket sea. These are personal likes that I hold and are in tune with my own taste - yet another sign of my lack of objectivity slipping away.
Of course, in my giddy excitement I logged onto all the sites, comment threads and Twitter searches expecting unanimous positivity. Again, the opinions were as divided as they were for the haute couture show. In a strange insecurity of my own opinion, I questioned where being present at the show, listening to that Detroit house thump at that volume and seeing the girls walk twice before my eyes and seeing a very emotional Raf in his endearing Helmut Lang denim jacket had flooded my perspective of wanting to root for its success.
Then upon visiting the showroom to see everything up close and a thorough inspection of the photos that you see here and rigorous editing of over 500 shots (always a handy indication of whether I got really excited at a show…), it all came flooding back. The movement. The feeling of something renewed and refreshing happening before our eyes. The seeds of a new epoch at a fabled house. A new chapter to recall years later when hopefully, I'm considered to be part of the "old guard". A feeling of vindication in my own opinion.
Still, I'm mindful that seeing it in person had indeed altered my objectivity. Mine is but one opinion out of potentially millions and those millions will ultimately count. Once I have acknowledged my own inevitable bias of having seen something in person, it makes it even more interesting to delve into those comment strands and countless Tweets to get that bit of perspective. I'm fully satisfied in knowing that whatever I see comes with personal judgement, opinion and taste. Perhaps that will help us get over the ever-boring, ever-tedious "Are bloggers fashion critics?" bollocks. I'm not. And I don't think I want to be. Instead I want to love what I love, in the way that I love things. Which is why I'm happy, safe with the knowledge that my minute expression of adoration for this collection is part of a much bigger picture.