Dior's Riviera Moment

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Christian Dior Resort 2016
Christian Dior Resort 2016Photography by Mary Gaudin

Raf Simons brings freshness and femininity to the Dior Resort 2016 collection, shown in the exquisite environs of the Palais Bulles

With the Croisette literally buzzing in anticipation for the 68th Cannes Film Festival, it makes a poignant return for the house of Dior to close out the triptych of international ‘super-cruise’ showings high above the Côte d’Azur for Resort 2016. Monsieur Dior fell in love with the region in the 1950s, establishing his summer home La Colle Noire in a village outside Cannes, and his spirit has permeated the festival for decades – of particular note is this year’s official poster celebrating 100 years since the birth of Ingrid Bergman, whom he dressed for the 1958 rom-com Indiscreet, amongst other films. Although those heritage links were omnipresent, Raf Simons still succeeded in making this Cruise show entirely his own, injecting an ethereal lightness into his 21st century Dior silhouette – framed with a feminine fraîcheur through the oval portholes of the Palais Bulles.

The Retro-Sphere
No doubt the most unconventional residence to grace the coastline of the French Riviera, the Palais Bulles (yes, Bubble Palace) designed by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag appears to have landed from outerspace in a series of ochre-coloured chambers – their elliptical windows overlooking infinity pools and the Mediterranean sea. Commissioned by the French industrialist Pierre Bernard in the mid-70s, the house remained unfinished up until his death in 1992, when the project passed into the hands of its current owner, Pierre Cardin. A disciple of Jean Prouvé, Lovag developed over time his theory of ‘habitology’ linked to spherical dwellings and their harmony with the human morphology, with other notable ‘bubble house’ projects including the heritage-listed Maison Gaudet. None, however, are quite as resplendent as the Palais Bulles, with its radial marble inlaid floors forming a dazzling runway for Raf Simons’ airy silhouettes and brocade booties, watched by an audience sat on round Perspex stools topped with veined black marble.

A Chequered Past
Unafraid to remix past and present, Raf Simons has mastered the time warp at Dior and the 2016 Cruise collection extended that leitmotif south of its honorary Parisian postcode to capture the relaxed, spring glamour of the iconic French coastline. Opening with a darted madras blouse coat over gingham shorts, Simons’ loose, light homage to the New Look silhouette (and its peplum Bar jacket) became a layered, tonal study of Vichy checks – with their two-tone effect echoed throughout in pieces like the fringe-hemmed ribbed knit sheaths and shirts in delicate honeycomb mesh. Other graphic studies included melting tropical florals that came tiered and pleated into flouncing cocktail gowns, or a strata-like appliqué of lame over striped silk separates that echoed the mineral vs. aquatic palette of the coastal surrounds.

The takeaway from Dior’s cliff top affair was the indelible sense of harmony that permeated all facets of the sundown show, which culminated in a spectacular fireworks display over the bay in shimmering silver, pink and gold explosions. It was the perfect opportunity to savour the feminine softness that has crept its way into Simons’ oeuvre at Dior, where his once fragmented sense of futurism has been honed to the more delicate sensibilities of Christian’s flower women. More Antibes than Antwerp, Simons’ designs felt more fluid and forgiving than seasons past; from the vintage appeal of knit bathing suits and spliced jacquard booties, to floral shifts in laser-cut lattice, these clothes twisted Dior’s formality with a touch of the handmade that rendered them more authentic, featherweight and ethereal than ever before.