It’s a tough show day when your catwalk set overshadows your collection. Kris Van Assche had paid tribute to the late Christian Dior’s love of roses by filling his show space with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of white roses. Models weaved their way through the beds as they walked, the entire set reflected back from a giant mirror that hung above. You couldn’t help but think back to Raf Simons’ first couture collection for the house, when he filled his show space with floor to ceiling flowers, embedding roses, peonies, goldenrod, dahlias, carnations, delphiniums, orchids - over a million blooms in total - into the walls. While it’s unconstructive and infeasible to argue that Simons, such a menswear genius, should be in charge of the men’s offering at Dior as well - the sheer quantity of work would be unmanageable - the pace and energy that Mr Simons has set for the house needs to be matched by Van Assche. On the womenswear runway, there is vision - sometimes there are mishaps, but there is a point of view a sense of creative freedom and experimentation. At the menswear, one feels operations are crippled by rules. Who’s imposing them? Perhaps the powers that be at Dior. Or perhaps Van Assche himself - he’s a designer who is obsessed with the details, the codes of menswear, the regulations and restrictions of design.
The formality of last season’s presentation, full of black tie eveningwear and suits, was rejected for S/S 16. Van Assche sought to present a more relaxed wardrobe - there were parkas, camo prints, yellow macs, bombers and cheerful red parkas. But you didn’t sense a humour or lightness - the dress code might have been less strict, but this was still as formal and precise as a three piece suit. The only really twist came in the strange ceramic ornaments carried in model’s hands. Created by artist Kristin McKirdy, they were a strange, oddly pleasing addition. At first glance one wondered if they were a piece of technology, after all we’re getting used to seeing headphones and whatnot on the runways as fashion brands hook up with tech companies - remember Beats at Fendi? But then the mind drifted toward naughtier things. They looked like ‘massage toys’ - such a sensual, intriguing contrast from the straight-laced vibe of the Dior boys carrying them. In today’s menswear market, ease and nonchalance are synonymous with luxury. That’s why Bottega Veneta, Prada and co are all trying to make their clothes look relaxed, lived in, effortless. There’s nothing more unattractive than something try-hand. So Van Assche needs to be careful to stop his work from looking laboured - precision stops being enticing if it looks obsessive and painstaking. Oh if only a bit of the natural carefree beauty of those roses, so wild and inviting, had crept into the clothes.