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Even before the lights went dark signaling the start of the Dior resort show at the sumptuous Blenheim Palace near Oxford, England on Monday night, most of the front row had their phones lit up, camera ready.
What might march down the long, hand painted canvas runway already covered with a countryside hunting scene featuring riders on horseback and a series of hunting dogs? Does anyone even care, as long as they can Snapchat their story to prove they were there?
Not even a handful of journalists carried open notebooks, ready to digest and decode the message presented by Dior's current design team — currently led by Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier, filling in until the brand can replace Raf Simons, who stepped down in January — and perhaps offer a criticism of what they observed on the catwalk.
But the social media action moments for this Dior resort show started hours earlier at Victoria Station where select guests boarded a special Belmond British Pullman (a sister train to the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, now dubbed the Blenheim Dior Express) in designated compartments like Phoenix or Gwen for a two hour ride to Oxfordshire palace in the middle of the English countryside.
On the station platform prior to boarding, Kiernan Shipka snapped a picture of herself smiling in an embroidered black pantsuit, standing before two station attendants in special Dior Express uniforms. Meanwhile, Riley Keough posted an image to her Instagram account showing her stepping onto the train in a red long coat and jeans, captioned with the special tag #diorexpress. Just moments after the train departed and long before it reached the English countryside, the world knew Emma Roberts was wearing a black off-the-shoulder dress and sitting in front of a dining table ready for the three course lunch that would be served during the short journey.
There is plenty of upheaval within the fashion world right now. From the idea of see-now, buy now to combining mens and women collections, to the calendar on which designers show their collections, everything is up for debate. But while one could argue that communicating a fashion message may be more effective by screening a short movie or staging an Instagram runway show, a traditional fashion show steadfastly remains a classic formula for the moment (and probably the foreseeable future) because at the end of the day it produces something priceless for a brand: Content.
Never has that been more clear than right now, during resort, and specifically at Dior's Cruise show. The brand doesn't have a designer — its current face and sunglasses collaborator, Rihanna, didn't even appear at the show on Monday — but it will be damned if it's going to miss an opportunity to take over everyone's social media channels for 24 hours.
A fashion show is the quintessential format for brands' content creation; it's promulgated to promote brand awareness. Images from a fashion show create a unique opportunity for brands to communicate directly to its audience in an unprecedented way. Seen under the microscope of content, it's obvious why the big brands like Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci devote resources (we're talking millions of dollars) to stage off-season shows in diverse locales like Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, Cannes or Dubai.
Sure, they can add a justification for such an extravagant event — like the opening of the biggest Dior flagship on New Bond Street — but it's really about the the actresses, editors, and journalists who accept an invitation to journey aboard the Dior Express in exchange for telling the world the story of this Dior event via their platform of choice. The guests provide the platforms to maximize Dior’s content distribution.
As for those few journalists scribbling notes into their journal, what did we write? Something about the post-war fashion relationship between France and England, between the past and the present, and the urge for the new through travel. A note about the French couture traditions merging with English pastoral life, and the latter's tradition of the hunt anchoring the layered, voluminous jackets with large side pockets and short flare pants in varied prints, knits, and silk velvets. One black cropped jacket caught my eye, paired with a yellow skirt over pants.
If exploration was the principal idea behind the thinking of the collection, then its execution fell slightly short of realizing a consistent wardrobe for a modern day traveller, perhaps a reflection of the brand's current lack of creative direction.
The show felt uneven — a white flared short dress with blue puffy sleeves and khaki leather ankle pants seemed an awkward combination, while a red print v-neck short sleeve long dress or a yellow silk long sleeve front slit was in fact the perfect seasonless dress. There was at least one guaranteed social media hit, a pair of black boots with gold heels, but does it even matter when so few people are really there for the clothes?