PARIS A colorful yet eerie pleasure garden greeted guests to the Dior fashion show in Paris on Friday, as artistic director Raf Simons introduced "a new tribe of flower women" to the ready-to-wear scene.
For Dior's spring/summer 2014 show at Paris fashion week, Simons took inspiration from the interplay between the natural and artificial worlds for his exploration of modernity that featured asymmetrical shapes and loose silhouettes.
"Sophisticated and savage" is how he described his looks, in which pleats dominated, asymmetry was ubiquitous and bursts of electric orange and yellow peppered the collection.
A scaffolding erected inside the gardens of the Musee Rodin was hung with brightly hued orchids and vines, some real and some artificial. The set, with its twisting and cascading decor, brought to mind a secret garden or a mysterious rainforest where a viper might lurk.
The hothouse's front-row guests included France's first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, Princess Siriwanwaree Nareerat of Thailand, and former "Wonderbra" supermodel Eva Herzigova.
The Paris fashion shows, which began on Tuesday, are taking place amid signs of revived demand in Europe for luxury goods. The market, which has been in decline for nearly five years, has felt most pressure in southern Europe, where consumer spending is tight and unemployment high.
The global luxury brand has sought to attract younger, hipper clients, and Christian Dior Chief Executive Sidney Toledano told Reuters that "Europe was working well" for the company.
Exane BNP Paribas wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that the European market was "the single most important positive surprise" for the luxury business in the second half of 2013.
In France, the women's ready-to-wear market - fashions that fill department-store racks and trendy boutiques - represents approximately 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in sales.
Simons, a Belgian appointed to the top creative post at Dior last year, took the brand's classic "Bar" jacket - with its tightly nipped waist and accented hips, but snipped and spliced it to reveal skin at the torso.
He paired those sharply tailored garments with printed silk shorts, combining fluidity and structure in flirty looks for summer.
Criss-crosses of fabric were sewn into many looks, while cut-ways revealed flashes of exposed hip, back or torso. Crisp blue-and-white seersucker shirt dresses were transformed from preppy to sexy with off-center openings at the front or exposed skin at the back.
Blue-hued silk prints featured prominently, some with writing incorporated into the patterns, while fabric in sorbet tones of pink and blue was sewn into light-as-air bubble skirts.
Simons ended his show with a parade of silver jacquard dresses. The garish, almost toxic artificiality of their colors contrasted with their classic Dior shapes, with full-hipped skirts and tight bodices.
(Editing by Pravin Char)