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Unfinished Business at Dior Homme

Godfrey Deeny
June 27th, 2010 @ 00:08 AM - Paris

A key question one always has to ask when attending a fashion show, especially of an important house in Paris, is where exactly would one expect to wear the clothes seen on the runway.

That’s particularly true at an event by a distinguished and well-financed brand such as Christian Dior, which stages shows with such aplomb and style. The menswear show unveiled Saturday, June 26, in Paris, had a rarefied and elegant élan.

The question was doubly pertinent because despite the slick staging, it was hard to imagine in what context a man would wear most of this spring 2011 collection, so elaborate the cut, so improbable the clothes, so unsuitable they were to be worn on a warm summer day.

The setting was beautiful: the giant disused train station of Halle Freyssinet, at the center of which stood a massive white cotton cylinder, a semi-transparent maze where the models could be glimpsed before appearing on the catwalk. However, while the set was splendid, the clothes seemed created for a monastic order – baggy pants, strange cable wool cummerbunds and floppy coats, ideal for a trendy abbot. The most common garment was a bias cut super fine wool T-Shirt with an angular bottom that looked original, but also uncomfortable.

Largely composed in a dull charcoal or matte black palette, this collection was made mostly of dry wools, odd for a spring season, and not ideal for a balmy day in Paris or anywhere else.

“I think we realized some time ago that luxury is not sequins and that often elegance should be about something more somber and using less to create more,” explained Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche, sweating profusely in one of the wool tops seen on the catwalk.

That’s not to say there were not some elegant clothes. Van Assche himself wore a sleek black jacket with ragged edges that looked very of the moment, as did deep gorge V-neck cotton tops and putty hued trench-coats seen on the runway.

However, his finale featured half unfinished jackets - one side came with lapels, pockets and buttons, while the other half was just a huge scarf in the same fabric draped on the models’ shoulders. They were a striking image, but also a good metaphor for what was ultimately an arcane collection.

The day before, Van Assche had shown his signature line in the same station, a collection of floating from the body silhouettes that captured this designer’s special skill – mixing street chic and tailoring. Yet, this too was a patchy performance: some fine tough dude leather jackets and intriguing new laced sneaker meets sandals, but mixed with plainly absurd pants with half skirts and wraps or endless plain black wife-beater tops. All the models had oily and dirty hands, in another illogical styling trick.

It finished with a quintet of models in paint splattered jeans, sweatshirts and trench coats that were strikingly similar to a look introduced a decade ago by Helmut Lang, the Austrian who was menswear's most influential designer in the '90s.

“Merci Helmut,” sniffed several stylists as they exited this show.

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