I did say there would be a bit of a Dior glut on the blog what with my late late posting of the spring-is-sprung couture collection, my messing around with S/S 13 RTW and now this; a trip to Monaco over the weekend to go over to see the cruise 2014 collection, the first time in three years Dior has ever put on an official resort show, demonstrating Raf Simon's intent in what is an increasingly important part of the business (Cathy Horyn got it in one when she suggested that cruise/resort collections be renamed as pay-the-rent collections).
To be honest, despite the growing retail importance and the increased coverage of resort, I still find it difficult to retain real concrete memories of cruise collections. It comes down to not having seen most of those clothes in person, save for a few ails in a store or in a designer's showroom. But for the most part, it's because there is still a whiff of "filler" about these inter-seasonal collections, something that a few designers readily admit to doing. To quote Lazaro Hernadez of Proenza Schouler, I don't mind "Clothes to wear, clothes to buy" saleable filler. It's unrealistic to expect a designer to churn out tip-top, directional wizardry in four collections a year (six if you do menswear as well, eight if you add haute couture on top of that - I think Riccardo Tisci is the only one to do the whole shebang for Givenchy).
Raf Simons now has the task of overseeing six collection for Dior as well as two menswear collections for his own line and he took us to Monaco to show his first stab at Dior cruise, lulling us into the false pretense that we were going to see a collection that was well-mannered, fit-for-the-riche, and appropriate for the setting. It was my first time visiting this strange rich microcosm. I was told I'd see instances of "Too much money. Not much sense." My only-in Monaco moment came when I naively wandered into the hotel swim boutique and asked if they had a simple, plain black swimsuit (DOH me for not bringing one), only to be greeted by racks of super-loud, beaded, blinged-out and très cher swimming ensembles.
The lavish affair of Dior's welcome to its guests for the show also tricked us into thinking we were going to be getting simplistic cruise control. This isn't a house that does things by half and it's hard not to be half seduced when you arrive at a hotel to be handed a Dior-personalised key card to your room as well as a whole host of Dior paraphernalia. The connection between Monaco and the House of Christian Dior was emphasised in a specially produced booklet where we got a polite rundown of Grace Kelly aka Princess Grace of Monaco's penchant for Dior. The loveliest touch of all was a bunch of fragrant lillies-of-the valley - a reference to Monsieur Dior's favourite flower, which he liked to have sewn into the hems of his dresses when he was showing his collections.
So far, so elegantly tasteful. The weather however conspired to rock this well-groomed boat. It was bucketing it down. Like, REALLY pissing it down. As we arrived at the show venue, at every moment there was a suited-up dude with an umbrella ready to shelter you, even when I insisted that a spot of rain was no real bother. Either I had bought the crap weather with me from London or the gods were giving Raf Simons a moody Hiroshi Sugimoto-esque backdrop, for his show to play out to. Built on the Promenade Casiraghi, this Dior white box must have looked like an unexpected addition to Monte Carlo's yachts, 5* hotels and luxury apartment blocks but it was our window to an amazingly vast vista of mean and grey Mediterreanean Sea.
Michel Glaubert revved up the engines on the soundtrack and off we zoomed. Together with snippets of Madonna's Erotica and Depeche Mode's Behind the Wheel, the soundtrack might have been referencing Monaco's Grand Prix, due to start this week, but it was more an indication of the faster pace that Simons was taking Dior towards. All preconceptions of a polite and quiet cruise collection flew out of the window at this point. Simons was literally investigating what the very word "cruise" meant, but he threw away all of the associated cliches and instead put his Dior cruise woman in the driving seat of a swift and sensual ride
Metallic foil and lace panels slashed their way across sheer dresses, making the Dior rose into something that was sharply graphic. The "Bar" jacket, which was previously rigorous and Le Smoking-esque, was now relaxed in fit and vibrant in cobalt and tomato red. Lace, a material that had been staid and old-fashioned in Simon's eyes was given an energetic twist by being sprayed, bonded and glazed in a multitude of colour combinations, which is becoming something of a signature of Simons at Dior (who dares to lazily call him a minimalist when he gets how to combine pastel tones, richly gradiated colour and bolts of metallic so well?). All the instances of lace in the collection formed a visual smorgasboard in itself. The full-skirted dresses of yester-Dior came zippered and slashed open in some instances to reveal metallic knitted bathing suits - a nod to bygone resortwear that surely needs reviving (one look at the aforementioned hotel swim boutique and I'm literally crying for Simons' swimwear propositions). The neckscarves creatd by Stephen Jones for his S/S 13 ready to wear are now free-flowing - something that you'd imagine blowing in the wind in a open-top car somewhere. There was something dynamic and freshly pulsating in those half-full, cropped palazzo trousers with volume concentrated on one side paired with spray-painted lace crop tops. Something off-kilter was going on in an orange metallic coat with pink metallic flashes and roses looking more like angular Sprouse-esque graphics. Asymmetry, movement and dynamism were abound and that was exciting to see.
Of course the sun-worshipping rich set that flock to the French Riviera will have things to love in this collection but better yet, it was a surprising cruise collection to all eyes collectively, as we witnessed Simons beginning to really stamp his own imprint at Dior. I think I might have said it best on Twitter for once. "It was more Raf. Less homage-y"
At the Musée Océanographique where past Christian Dior frocks of Princess Grace of Monaco were displayed at the aftershow cocktail event, you sensed that Simons was unlikely to revisit them with as much deference as he has done in his past work at Jil Sander and at Dior and even if he did, it would be with nuance and subtlety. Escaping the well-to-do pleasantries and the slightly daunting presence of Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco (she was the one who invited Simons to show Dior Cruise at Monaco) at the event was easy enough when we could go and watch vibrant fishies and sealife instead at the aquarium.