This woman’s work: what is seen as the decidedly feminine craft of the haute couture atelier, combined with the distinctly personal relationships between the creators and clients is celebrated this season. For Spring-Summer, Raf Simons, Artistic Director of Christian Dior, focuses on a personal, almost private and unseen world of women. “I see this collection as almost abstract,” says Simons. “I wanted to focus on the idea of intimacy around couture more than anything else, the emotional experience of it; the relationship between the clients, the salon, the women.” It is a decidedly sensual world that is evoked in the collection. Here an intricate play of transparencies and a contemporary approach to cutwork and embroidery are the predominant motifs; ideas of the hidden, the intimate and the exposed are both playfully and poetically evoked.

The concealed craft and construction of garments, the layers of delicate flower embroideries at once hidden and revealed, the respect for and the revelation of the female body see the exquisite skills of the couture atelier at its peak. A new form of construction through decoration is explored in the intricate, delicate cutwork to be found throughout the collection. This gives the clothing a contemporary third dimension through embroidery and an architectural quality. Yet all appears light and effortless despite the collection being one of the most labour intensive yet produced.

At the same time there is a notion of dialogue with the contemporary couture client; how a woman would envisage and wear a couture garment today. The gestures of Christian Dior, that would purposely break the perfection of his clothing at times, are reimagined as coming from the client herself; slicing away necklines, stripping back or gathering a length of skirt, or simply wearing training shoes are all elements of this new insouciance.

The setting for the show is again a reimagining of the intimacy of the female arena of the salon. Evoking French Mid-Century interior architecture, with a blend of white angular Modernism and biomorphism echoing the female form, the interior resonates with the clothes themselves. All is sculpted by human hand. “The interior is a radical, female gesture,” explains Raf Simons. “And I wanted the women who wear these clothes to feel that too. That they can be worn with a powerful attitude, without any of the extraneous elements like a ‘couture pose’; that they can be worn by just being themselves.”