Snapshot: Combine Dior's creative director Raf Simons, Bureau Betak's Alexandre de Betak and an iconic Japanese sumo stadium during fashion week, and you've got yourself a little bit of magic. Not quite as whimsical as Hayao Miyazaki's supernatural animations for Studio Ghibli, this "Espirit" exhibit does call his Japanese fantasies to mind, as spectators are transported into a parallel universe of perpendicular lines.
Recent times have seen many a major fashion house show their pre-collections in far off and exotic locations, and while Tokyo is no stranger to the fashion world, there is a certain detachment from the typical London - Paris - New York couture that gives it a jarring edge. Betak is no stranger to the stage, having designed Miu Miu's first fashion show in '94 launching a career that has become imperative to the fashion world ever since. With Simon's background in industrial design, this collaboration was always bound for an impressive end result.
Raf Simons is particularly drawn to Japanese expression and style, and his celestial runway represents a futuristic mesh of East and West, where fantasy meets reality, and where conventions are challenged and transgressed. Viewers are met with an abstract urban landscape, part space station, part animé. Metallic blacks and neon lights create a deep-space surround, while the enormous cubic stage floats underneath a complex titanium grid. The landscape is space, softened by starlight and gently falling snow, while the soundscape takes tunes from Blade Runner and Interstellar, further edifying the show's abstraction into science fiction.
The models glide across the stage in geometric formations and unconventional diagonals, crossing paths in complex patterns that confuse and contradict the overhead grid. English woollen plaids and chunky knits meet eclectic layering, neon and sequins, a fusion that dazzles and bemuses in a true amalgamation of Western and Eastern styles that Simions calls "utilitarian glamour." The silhouettes sizzle against the darkness, sequins sparkle with the stars, and all the while there is the overwhelming sense that you are witnessing something very special, something from the future, and something that hasn't quite happened yet.
In Miyazaki's "Spirited Away", a ten-year-old girl called Chihiro Ogino and her parents en route to their new home when her father takes a wrong turn. They come across a seemingly daunting entrance to a definitely daunting world, yet her father insists on exploring and they stumble upon a strange universe of bizarre creatures and magical, if often disturbing adventures. Espirit Dior creates a similar experience of entering the unknown, of discovering hidden Eastern secrets and of having your spirit momentarily taken away. Borrowed by the galaxy, here we are shown Simons vision of the future of fashion, and how it has taken his spirit by storm.
Photography courtesy of Bureau Betak