Jan 25, 2015
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Dior chic, updated for modern man

Jan 25, 2015

A night at the opera: what's a modern man to wear? If he's dressed in Dior's latest, unveiled at the Paris fashion week, it'll be a chic evening suit -- rejuvenated with snazzy sneakers, flashes of techno-colour and stylish doses of denim.

That was the autumn-winter collection rolled out late Saturday by Dior's men's artistic director Kriss Van Assche.

The show was the most classically theatrical of the week, with a 37-piece orchestra lined up and setting the tone.

Model after model paraded by, their hair perfectly side-parted in what looked to be equally classical numbers: suits, even long-tailed ones, that would turn heads for their elegance.

But look closer, and many sported -- or were made of -- denim instead of fine wool, a tribute to the ubiquity of jeans today, from the office to increasingly more formal dos.

And the shoes they wore had uppers as shiny as limousines -- but bright yellow or red or white knobbed soles belonging to sports sneakers.

The aim, Van Assche told AFP ahead of the show, is to present "a radically modern man" who would not look out of place turning up to the opera on a bicycle.

- 'Techno-sartorial' -

His was a balancing act between the timeless grace that is the legacy of Christian Dior, and the high-end sportiness that infuses his own work, seen to even greater effect in his own brand that showed separately the day before.

"If I had to sum up the collection in two words, it would be an idea of 'techno-sartorial'," Van Assche said.

"Sartorial because of Dior, because of the workmanship, because of the savoir-faire. But 'techno' because it's dynamic and really sporty."

But the Belgian designer was at pains to emphasise tha he was sourcing the inspiration in himself, not as a homage to some past glory.

"I have the impression that when we speak of elegance we are often tempted to look into a rearview mirror... and that is precisely what I try to avoid."

He said his conception of the man who would fit the image he created was imaginary -- "more the idea of someone I'd like to meet than someone I already met".

But he had no doubt the collection would prove successful, across all markets, either as presented or worked in as pieces into a different wardrobe. One, no doubt, where denim naturally played a basic role.

"Denim for me is a bit like mohair in suits. Everybody wears it, it's become extremely common. But as soon as you wear it, you're still cool... Me, I wanted to put it into an elegant context."

- 'Confidence in the future' -

As a nod to the past, though, the collection introduced a little favourite of Christian Dior: flowers. Only here, they were dried and worked into badges to give youthful zest to suit fronts.

The overall ambition was one of dynamism, because, the designer said, "we are in a time where things are pretty complicated, and being dynamic means you have confidence in the future".

That sentiment and the clothes it spurned seemed to appeal to a bevvy of European celebrities and other designers who turned out to watch the show.

Among them was Karl Lagerfeld, the designer for Chanel, who had only good words to say.

"It was superb. You want to wear them all, to become a client," he said.

"I love lengthy suits; I have many clothes like that myself -- they are more flattering. There was that, and the sporty side."

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