* Simons puts own spin on Dior's 1940s "Flower women"
* Colourful catwalk weaves through floral-clad rooms
* Cinched waists, jolts of colour pepper collection
By Alexandria Sage
PARIS, July 2 The who's who of the fashion world
came out to toss flowers at the feet of Christian Dior's new
creative director on Monday, applauding the fresh and modern
approach Raf Simons has brought to the feminine extravagance of
a grand French atelier.
The Belgian couturier greeted oversized expectations for his
first Dior collection with a decidedly architectural
look that revelled in sumptuous understatement. The house has
been without a permanent designer since former star John
Galliano fell from grace over a drunken, racist tirade.
Rival designers Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, Louis Vuitton's Marc
Jacobs, Versace's Donatella Versace and even veteran couturier
Pierre Cardin were on hand for the Simons debut in a grand
Parisian mansion festooned with flowers.
"Flower women" is how Christian Dior referred to his
revolutionary 1940s creations that used an abundance of fabric
cinched in tightly at the waist to create his "New Look"
silhouette that personified post-war elegance and excess.
That floral idea, deconstructed, found its way into the new
autumn/winter 2012-2013 Haute Couture collection, as the
designer known for minimalism used dramatic colour and delicate
workmanship to revive Dior's vision.
Models navigated a catwalk that wound through five
colour-coded rooms whose walls were covered floor to ceiling
with either blue delphiniums, white orchids, red and orange
roses or pink roses and peonies - a showstopping stage that
would have struck fear into the hearts of anyone with allergies.
On the runway, structured bodices were intricately stitched
to resemble petals, with subtle folds of fabric that opened like
new buds on flirtatious dresses or curvaceous suits.
"The architecture of flowers is analysed in a different way
for the contemporary world," wrote Simons in his collection
notes, adding that an "intense, new use of colour" was central.
Following the show, as a crush of photographers and
television cameras encircled Simons, designer Elbaz summed up
the collection succinctly: "Voila modernity."
Others agreed. French actress Marion Cotillard, wearing a
navy floral dress with a short full skirt, called the collection
"sublime," while black-clad Sharon Stone dubbed the floral
motifs "very witty."
As for Simons, who appeared relieved that it was all over,
more prosaic concerns were on his mind.
"I need another drink," he said, heading backstage after
greeting guests. "Now, a glass of wine."
Dior is the elegant feather in the cap of luxury goods group
LVMH, which besides fashion brands like Louis Vuitton
and Givenchy also owns Moet Hennessy and jeweller Bulgari.
Sales in Asia and the United States helped LVMH to a 25
percent rise in first-quarter revenue in April, but some
analysts worry that wealthy buyers may balk at continued
instability in the global economy and pull back on purchases.
The hiring of Simons for Dior's top creative spot put to
rest a more than year-long search to replace disgraced
ex-creative director Galliano, who was fired after he was caught
on camera hurling anti-Semitic insults at people in a Paris
That negative publicity was forgotten on Monday with one
look at the hyper-feminine dress in light organza sewn to
resemble the petals of hydrangeas, or the deluxe red cashmere
coat that made a swooshing sound as it wafted past.
Black suits had exaggerated "New Look" waists, while a
half-top, half-cape creation in electric fuchsia wool crepe over
black cigarette pants was a dramatic nod to Dior's love of
"It seemed very modern even though he was working with
silhouettes from the '40s," said Hamish Bowles, an editor at
Vogue. "It was interesting to see him use those lines in a
(Additional reporting by Mathilde Gardin, editing by Paul