A new question has surfaced in the fashion discourse: are we entering the era of the anonymous designer? For every Olivier Rousteing who has turned the house of his or her majority vote into a celebrity cock pit (and, incidentally, hubs of kid clothes), there seems to emerge two Alessandro Micheles: behind-the-scenes visionaries with experience that is equal to or greater than their better known contemporaries. This is true of Demna Gvasalia, of Vêtements, who will show his first collection for Balenciaga in March, and of Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, the duo who has been tasked with the revival of Courrèges.
Then yesterday, Dior’s studio head designers, Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, who have both worked closely at the house with Raf Simons (who heroically stepped down in late 2015 and caused an entire industry to yell, “Burn out!”) showed a couture collection that was, technically speaking, awesome.
While there are sprinklings of what look like cultural models that have been built by some of Dior’s contemporaries (specifically those of Nicolas Ghesquière), there are three important questions one should ask in order to determine whether a collection is good.
+If I didn’t know what I was looking at, would I know what I’m looking at?
+Do I feel inspired? invigorated?
+Do the clothes make me want to say something new? This doesn’t necessarily mean that the collections follow the Marc Jacobs model (wherein a new collection that lacks any semblance to the one that came before is brought forward at the initiation of a new season every single time), but it does mean: do these clothes support or contradict the sentence that this house put forward as its thesis? At their best, clothes are supposed to make you think. They’re a conversational vessel that promotes opinion breaking and idea making.
So did these clothes do that? Yeah. Sure. Here I am, compelled to speak. Feeling invigorated by the espresso shot of a full, flimsy mini skirt made entirely from dainty appliqués you could barely detect.
And as for whether or not I know what I’m looking at, fundamentally speaking, Raf Simons’ greatest contribution to fashion’s discourse beyond the stunning clothes — sometimes tense and always challenging, has been his modernization of what it means to wear couture. Of who wears couture. No longer is the season simply a string of red carpet dresses and difficult-to-wear trapeze coats — Met Gala clothes that serve no purpose beyond standing on a carpet and being photographed. On the contrary, it’s a brand new way to show our individualist-obsessed world that you’re different. You can wear the clothes, you can live in the clothes and they will support you in response.
What do these clothes do if not that?
So I’m thrilled. On the one hand, to see what is turned out at ready-to-wear, but on the other, to see what happens to what we’re calling the anonymous phenoms. There’s only so long that great work can go unknown.
Photographs via Vogue Runway. Feature image photographed by Ward Ivan Rafik from Dior.