Simons confidently evolves Christian Dior style

THOMAS ADAMSON AP Fashion Writer Published:

PARIS (AP) -- The fourth day of Paris fashion week saw Raf Simons unveil the latest chapter of his journey after nearly a year at the design helm of Christian Dior.

Following his acclaimed debut last year, the pressure has been stacked on the Belgian designer to deliver again in what is only his second ready-to-wear show in one of the most influential jobs in fashion. And Friday saw Simons live up to expectations.

He confidently evolved the angular portions of previous seasons' work into softer, more saleable silhouettes. The new Bar jacket, looser and in trendy wool denim, seemed to point to a man who's finally settled in to his role.

This season was the supplest fusion so far of his minimalism and the house's ultra-femininity and curves.

Fall-winter 2013-14 saw a parade of "memory dresses," some 48 looks that delved into the iconic houndstooth, peplums, and Monsieur Dior's original '40s designs. They hit the catwalk outside Paris' Hotel des Invalides, reimagined, alongside enormous mirror ball decor.

Like thought bubbles, the reflective spheres set the tone for the musing, which included an embroidered tulle bustier A-line dress, an archive piece called "Miss Dior 1949" reworked in hip embroidered black leather. Elsewhere, blown-up houndstooth had a surreal quality, in vertical slices down column silhouettes. It was a great re-working of the classic pattern first used by the house in the late '50s.

The more muted palette of black, white, pale pink and navy was further proof of his evolution. After all, while at Jil Sander, it was Simons who started the bright color trend.

There was plenty of imagination, like prints and embroideries of surreal eyes and tears that resembled ants, reminiscent of Salvador Dali. However, the show could have done without motifs by Andy Warhol, like a sparking stiletto print, which sometimes jarred as overly adolescent, and a tad tacky.

Overall, the show was a success; one step further on in Dior's mission statement for the designer, to "propel its iconic style into the 21st century."

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP