On Saturday, the fashion jet set arrived in Rio for the spectacular Louis Vuitton cruise presentation, held at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói. It was a sunny, summery spectacle so heavily documented on Instagram that it was hardly imperative to actually be in Brazil for the showing. Save for the backdrop, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière sent an artful, cohesive collection — a result of what happens when the runway doesn't just embrace the increasingly popular athleisure trend, but reinterprets it and makes it its own.
Three days later, things were slightly less bright for Dior's latest offering. First was the weather and torrential downpour, as guests hopped on board the Dior Express, departing from London's Victoria station on a private train, replete with Dior porters, Dior china, and a resplendent lunch to Woodstock's Blenheim Palace, one of England's grandest stately buildings and the birthplace of former prime minister Winston Churchill. Second was the array of looks down the runway by interim designers Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, who noted this season was inspired by "not only the post-war high society's wardrobes, but also the restlessness and wanderlust that characterized the period: the urge to travel, to discover the new." And though this selection definitely ventured into "new" territory (at least, as far as the house's nearly 70-year-old legacy is concerned); whether it was actually a success is a question of its own. With such grandeur (Dior everything! An English palace! Bella Hadid on the catwalk, hours after her announcement as the brand's new face!) it might have been difficult to focus on the real reason for the event in the first place: the clothes. And while the venue itself seemed to pull from the label's history (Christian Dior himself first unveiled a collection at Blenheim in 1954; in 1958, Dior's protege, Yves Saint Laurent, also staged a show at the famous palace), the items struggled to find a string of cohesiveness to bind them all together. There were darker-toned floral dresses and cropped leather flares that echoed the virality of Vetements. Blazers featured loose strings that seemed more of an afterthought than intentional. Suit sets were cut into silhouettes that were difficult to imagine anyone wearing. And the fits were looser than typically expected, with the accessories much less "Lady Dior" than previous collections.
Veering from tradition isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many "unconventionally" Dior pieces did hit the mark — a black, subtly-embroidered evening gown with a plunging neckline, a belted camel coat that has "street style" written all over it, an old-school yellow shirtdress that screamed '50s Dior — albeit on their own, and not as an entity. Perhaps after their spring/summer 2016 collection, Meier and Ruffieux felt they needed to push boundaries beyond the aesthetic Raf Simons initiated. But maybe that type of boundary pushing is something only a newly appointed creative director will be able to do. Speaking of a Simons successor, the most important news to come from the evening was that the brand is (hopefully) soon hiring its first female creative director. Not that Meier and Ruffieux have proved they aren't capable, but Dior seems to be going through the same limbo period that so many other companies (take Lanvin, for example) left without a leader at the helm are facing. It's an identity crisis that asks designers to maintain a decades old aesthetic, while also giving it modern appeal — along with a highly-demanding, arguably exhausting production schedule. Sure, the shoes may still be open, but with a new name in place by September (fingers crossed!) comes the promise that Dior may get that reboot (or at least, the stability) it so deserves.