Finding an immortal piece of fashion is like finding a man: you can spend your whole life waiting for it, and it can arrive by chance when you least expect it – or never at all!
I grew up with the fashion myth of Christian Dior as the supreme expression of elegance and all things classy. My mother wore a lot of things that resembled some of the fashion house’s creations (you know, Yugoslavia didn’t exactly have Dior but it sure did have magazines, universal messengers of fashion) and I generally looked up to her and dreamt of being “a lady” on my own. And that last concept involved a lot of silk shirts, big skirts, dramatic coats and hats. Does that sound familiar to you?
As I grew up I gradually approached various fashion powerhouses, with all the difficulties of my case (see my dress size). Yet somehow I never wanted to pass the threshold of Dior. Why? I do not have the correct answer to this. It felt perhaps too old, targeting my mother and not the 30-something me. It was also an intimidating brand whose history was so overwhelming to me, made of Avedon’s photography and models with tiny waists whose physique was as far as you could get from me. The name itself was a cloud of mystery, a legend that one should approach with respect and deference, a man who died and left an untouchable legacy that should be worn by ethereal Parisian ladies who sit in cafés and smoke cigarettes. You got the point.
Yet one day while I was strolling with my best friend we somehow ended up in front of Dior’s windows. Glitzy, shiny marble and full of light, the store was beautiful to look at and fully lived up to the impressive name displayed above the entrance. Let’s go in, Violante! my friend said, and without waiting for my protesting reply, went for the door readily opened by the elegantly suited staff. Placed in front of a choice (staying outside like an idiot or entering the temple) I followed.
Flowers. There were so many flowers. Everyone was smiling. The colours were elegant, pale pink roses and platinum-coloured furniture, the scent in the air was exactly what my mother use to wear (and keep me away from when I was a curious child!). Apart from the immediate Yugoslav child in me gazing at everything curiously, my inner fashionista was piqued by the lovely timeless Lady Dior bags and the scarves being displayed in an elegant array.
As we walked the impressive staircase to reach the upper floor with its prêt-à-porter, I stopped breathless. There it was: a wonderful, striking, enormous coat on a display hanger. It had everything, colour, size, weight, shape – and everything spoke to me bewitchingly.
It was the 2013, and it was the exact moment when I fell in love with Dior – a love story that has no equals and that has went happily on ever since.
A sales assistant explained to me that I was looking at the re-edition of a 1948 original design by Monsieur Dior called “Arizona”, brought back to life by Raf Simons and updated in a lively shade of red. As I tried it on and took in the sheer weight (it has an incredible construction at the bottom, with inside panels inserted to keep it hanging and moving in just the right way) it just felt right. It was almost as if I saw Monsieur Dior himself next to me nodding approvingly and making me realise I was, in fact, one of his ladies.
I never regretted that decision. These special re-edition pieces are always iconic and hard to come by. Designers won’t always dip into the archives both because of personal vanity and their aim for originality, but some of them – like Raf Simons – will gladly do it and add a fantastic, modern personal touch, producing legendary clothing items on their own. (if you haven’t, I warmly suggest you watch “Dior and I”, a documovie on Raf’s first high couture runway chez Dior)
What better occasion to wear this coat than on Valentine’s day? After all, it did mark the beginning of a love story, and continues to perpetuate it to this day 🙂