Christian Dior F/W 2016
Christian Dior F/W 2016

There has been speculation all week and anxiety has been stratospheric over two high-profile labels who were presenting runway shows without primary creative directors. The first show came late yesterday evening as Lanvin tried making a go of things without Elber Albaz. The results were nothing short of hideous, which raised the anxiety over today’s Dior show that much more. Would this show, too, be another unqualified disaster, or would the design team, at least, avoid a complete catastrophe by presenting clothes that looked like they belong to the label?

While this obviously wasn’t a home run, which I doubt anyone was expecting in the first place, the design team did at least manage to not foul out and showed they can keep interest in the label until a new creative director is found. For starters, they had a solid visual theme providing some continuity to the collection. Visuals are traditionally strong at a Dior show and this season was no different with the catwalk being framed with large circles and mirrors at either end, creating a visual illusion that time, and Dior is endless.

There are few significant departures from classic Dior silhouettes, which was an intelligent move. Sure, there are additions of fur here and there and swapping out fabrics gave a new feeling to some of the older styles. Still, there was no point at which one had to guess whether this was still Dior. One could have walked in at the middle of the show and still known whose clothes were walking. Simple. Effective.

Basic black Bar jacket started the show, and set a rather somber tone. What could possibly be more Dior? The feel was old-school Hollywood glamour with polite slits in the skirt showing silk lining of a contrasting tone. Masculine tailored coats over same-color brocade patterned dresses kept things formal and slightly aloof. Moving into prints, the looks stayed buttoned up with high collars and a preference toward longer hemlines, though an occasional mid-thigh skirt walked through to keep things interesting.

There was a fair amount of mix-and-match of catalog favorites, with off-the-shoulder bustier tops being layered over dresses with metallic embroidery on the sleeves being one of the more interesting touches early on. At other times, it was a contrast of patterns of differing fabrics that gave the looks a slightly more contemporary feel. At no point did the collection ever feel boring or terribly aged. Despite being a round of classic looks, the team kept it mixed up, going back and forth between original Dior silhouettes and some of Raf Simons’ more recent looks.

Of course, there were plenty of those high-wasted pencil skirts, delicate takes on both single-shoulder and off the shoulder tops, and even a very “now” piece with a blue sequined dress over a solid black tunic. Someone on the team, or perhaps the team as a whole, is showing off some serious atelier skills here with precision styling and dedication to the house aesthetic that is quite impressive. At the end, a stunning red coat over a white mock turtleneck with off-centered zipper sealed the deal for a strong, salable, and classic collection.

The difference between the two houses without creative directors couldn’t be more stark. In elevating praise for the Dior team, which I expect will only grow as the day goes on, the failure of the Lanvin team is more dismal. Is it possible that, with today’s success, Dior might choose to simply elevate one of its senior designers to the post rather than naming someone from outside? I think that move is quite likely, and might actually be the better move for the house both creatively and financially. Keeping this team together should be a priority as well, since they demonstrated strong skills that are difficult to replace.

Adversity and challenge cause true leaders to rise to the top and turn such challenge into success. Dior’s design team has certainly done that. Let’s hope the house sees fit to keep these skilled people at the top.

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