Dance is about freedom, as is fashion, at its best. There are few more exciting voices in the international ballet world right now than Justin Peck, New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer. Peck, 27, is as well versed in fashion as he is in movement, so who better to choreograph Dior’s fall collection of madly printed body stockings? “I think [Dior artistic director] Raf Simons is one of the most creative minds working in any art form today,” Peck says. “There is something about Dior that reminds me of New York City Ballet. They both have a classic, glamorous basis but are trying to evolve the arts in new and innovative ways.” For Peck, the similarities don’t end there. “There is something very cyclical about the way fashion designers work,” he says. “They work and work and work, the collection is finally shown, and after those 15 minutes they must start over, from the beginning. This is not unlike the way I work creating new dances.” Here, music aficionado Simons tells Bazaar‘s Laura Brown about the rhythm of design.
LAURA BROWN: Fashion is about movement. What propels you forward?
RAF SIMONS: Contemporary art for me is a real driver; it propels us into the future. And at the same time, it’s what connects us to the past, from a perspective of artistic evolution in which the succession of eras and styles gives meaning to creation.
LB: Dance tells a story without words, as does fashion. How do you articulate the story of a collection?
RS: There’s always a starting point. For example, for this season’s haute couture collection, it was the Hieronymus Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and the Flemish primitive painters. Then the different inspirations take shape around this starting point but in a modern way.
LB: You described the body stockings as a “new kind of camouflage.” Can you really see a girl wearing this and blending in?
RS: Of course! Camouflage is about much more than concealment and going unnoticed. There’s a whole game involved between revealing and hiding.
LB: What’s your first memory of seeing the ballet?
RS: It was when I was 15, in Brussels, seeing Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in Rosas danst Rosas.
LB: Have you ever been inspired by any ballet costumes in particular?
RS: Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, by Mark Leckey, is always very inspirational to me.
LB: Costume versus fashion: Is there a difference? Where is the line between the two?
RS: Both are about telling a story, except that in a ballet the story has already been written by the composer or the librettist.
LB: What do you think a woman should wear when she goes out dancing?
RS: Something in which she feels feminine and free.
LB: Do you go out dancing? If so, where?
RS: When I was young I used to go to a club in Brussels called Fuse. I still love dancing, but now I would say that I get to dance at after-parties when I’m traveling for fashion shows.
LB: What kind of dancer are you?
RS: The last one to leave the dance floor.
LB: What is your favorite music to dance to?
RS: Plastikman and Richie Hawtin.
LB: Dancing is the best stress reliever. Do you think fashion people should dance more?
RS: Yes, let’s dance, as David Bowie would say!
Interview by Laura Brown
Photographed by Simon Procter
Mixed media. Jumpsuits, Dior. Hair: Tomi Kono; makeup: Sir John for L’Oréal Paris;manicures: Casey Herman for Chanel Le Vernis; production: Mary-Clancey Pace for Hen’s Tooth Productions; set design: NicholasDes Jardins. Special thanks to New York City Ballet dancers Claire Kretzschmar, Rebecca Krohn, Alexa Maxwell, Tiler Peck,Teresa Reichlin, Kristen Segin, Gretchen Smith, and Indiana Woodward, and to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.