Hubert Burda Media

Raf Simons takes his last bow

His final collection for Dior is an alluring celebration of purity, strength and femininity.

Dior’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection may be Raf Simons’ swan song for the storied fashion house, but it isn’t a tribute to the rich history of the brand. The designer focuses instead on his vision of the future — returning to basics and celebrating a more pared down, clean and simple form of beauty.

“For this collection, I wanted to look at something rougher and more natural than the garden,” says Simons. “At the same time and just as in nature, I wanted to find a new kind of precision, purity and ease — a fragment of what is to come.”

This season is certainly one of Simons’ most stripped down offerings to date, with bold embellishments and bright colours kept to a minimum and with none of the lush, full skirts that have become so characteristically Dior. Instead, the Spring/Summer 2016 show in Paris saw models file out in all-white lingerie-inspired cropped tops and scalloped-edged shorts, long floaty dresses and tailored bar jackets with feminine pleated hemlines. The colour palette throughout the collection is a pristine white, classic black, basic nude, and a smattering of pastel blue, pink and coral. The only form of adornment comes in the form of stripes on semi-sheer dresses and oversized coats, and floral embroidery on white parkas.

Backstage, Simons explains his inspiration to the fashion press: “It’s a calm one and very soft — away from the overdone. I didn’t want to embellish. So I was thinking about the South of France — rainbows and the simple things. And there’s a bit of Victoriana: Something of that film Picnic at Hanging Rock. With a slight sexual undertone of darkness.”

The play on opposites is apparent in the collection’s dichotomy of masculine and feminine, past and future, dark and light, innocence and sophistication — with both airy and heavy textures.

“There are literal layers of the past, from the Victorian-style underwear layered under the transparent bias-cut dresses and the bar jackets and rough knits,” Simons continues. “But for me, it still all feels oddly futuristic and strangely romantic — like this woman is about to travel through space and time.”

Celebrated for his restrained aesthetic and contemporary sensibility, Simons has always had a knack for giving the romantic and feminine a harder, modern edge, making the floaty look formal and juxtaposing softness with strength. This season, he gives signature pieces, such as the structured menswear-inspired bar suit jackets and dresses, a touch of femininity with a flutter of delicate pleats at the hem and a rounded edge at the shoulders. Weighty knit sweaters are layered over transparent slip dresses that appear feather light.

Of course, as with every fashion powerhouse, no collection is complete without its standout accessories. Shoes are patent, pointy-toed, buckled, block-heeled, with ribbons that tie around the ankle, while Dioramas come in futuristic-looking metallic hues. Joining in the trend of decorated straps, the Lady Dior bag comes with a thick, colourful, gem-embellished strap this season. The newest bag from the brand is the Diorever, a structured tote with a flap that can be fashioned in three different ways. And then there are the printed neck scarves and statement metal chokers with the “47” tag, a reference to the year Christian Dior launched his iconic New Look collection.

“I wanted the collection to have a purity to it,” Simons sums up. “To simplify and concentrate on a line that expressed an idea of femininity, fragility and sensitivity without sacrificing strength and impact; there might be a simplicity in how the collection looks, but it is extremely complex in terms of technique.”

The result? A quietly poetic but stunningly beautiful final collection, which is testament to the fact that being loud and flashy isn’t the only way to leave a legacy.