Christian Dior feted its 70th birthday at Paris’ Couture Week Monday in style with an accomplished, star-filled show that mapped the iconic house’s journey across the world. It was an unabashed, encyclopedic celebration of femininity in all its guises for Maria Grazia Chiuri — the house’s first female designer. Meanwhile, art, colour and aquatic musings defined the remaining energetic instalments of the week.
Here are some of the highlights.
Dior breathed a sigh of relief that it didn’t rain on Chiuri’s first outdoor presentation — and her best show to date. But the unexpected rays of sun caused their own set of problems for the myriad VIP guests that included singer Celine Dion and actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst.
They sweltered alongside the forest-like show decor of verdant grass, exotic trees, huge wooden elephants, crocodiles and eagles at the Invalides venue. Meanwhile, actor Robert Pattinson — a Dior brand ambassador — mingled with guests in the cool of the shade cast surreally by a gargantuan atlas, hoisted up above the show foliage.
The starting point of Chiuri’s empowering, feminist display was a 1953 Atlas etching of five continents discovered in the Dior archives, which mapped the house’s global expansion. Chiuri took Monsieur Dior’s own words — that a collection should represent “all types of women in all countries” — and gave them renewed legitimacy.
The ankle-length silhouettes, which riffed on the 1950s, celebrated powerful female trailblazers of history — and the bold styles worn by women thousands of miles apart. A loose, pleated gray wool menswear aviator outfit was called Amelia Earhart, in celebration of the American aviation pioneer who succeeded in a man’s world.
An anthracite jumpsuit with a chic, Asian-style crossover and large turned-up sleeves was named Siam in celebration of Thai women’s style. And a delicate, sexy tulle dress with peek-a-boo sheer sections — called Andalusia — evoked iconic black Spanish lace. But this wasn’t just an encyclopedic check list — and the 66 varied looks packed some true style.
Gently cinch-waisted silhouettes billowed out into beautiful culottes, alongside voluminous full skirts in organza, or vintage pleated evening dresses. This couture season, Chiuri really found her voice.
Clash of the Titans actress Gemma Arterton, who attended the autumn-winter show, credited Chiuri for pushing the Parisian brand in a pro-female direction.
“I find it very feminine, especially since Maria Grazia [Chiuri] has been designing for them,” Arterton, 31, said.
“She obviously supports women, and I’m a big old feminist,” she added.
Arterton, who called the house “iconic,” chose, perhaps intentionally, to wear an empowering menswear tailored white Dior tuxedo to the show.
RALPH & RUSSO’S PLUMAGE
In a white shoulderless halterneck, actress Zendaya joined Fast and Furious star Michelle Rodriguez in a silken teal coat dress to add star power to the Ralph & Russo front row. It was perhaps a welcome boost to a collection that was hard to pin down.
Tamara Ralph’s designs are a red carpet favourite — and no doubt some looks, like an asymmetrical pastel plum satin gown that unfurled around the bust, will be a big hit. But the collection — which moved between varying pastel shades — seemed to lack focus at times. Big Ottoman-style cone hats, strapped under the chin, defined many of the shimmering gowns doused with lashings of embroideries and sequins.
Then, there were the feathers.
Plumes shot out from large shoulder sections, down a cinched ‘60s skirt, across the arm like a bird’s wing, and then down the chest on one black-and-silver, traffic-stopping gown that evoked a peacock with its tail feathers down.
There were plenty of great dramatic moments — including an off-white feather hat that might have been the pick of the late Elizabeth Taylor.
SCHIAPARELLI’S LOVE OF ART TURNS DIAPHANOUS
Elsa Schiaparelli has famously blurred the lines between fashion and art. Designer Bertrand Guyon took the iconic Parisian couturier’s passion for painting Monday to produce a diaphanous collection of couture gowns that fluttered by guests at Paris’ Place Vendome.
With hints of the 1930s draping styles and high necks that defined the late Schiaparelli’s heyday, Guyon placed allusions to Cubism and Surrealism at the heart of the show.
A flame red heart made of silk ruffles adored the waist of a voluminous, layered black tulle bustier gown. A white tuxedo jacket sported an embroidery of a sparkling eye and motifs of moons at different stages of shadow sparkled on a bodice. A dragonfly belt clasp gave a silk bustier dress in ochre a magical quality. It wasn’t just nostalgia, though in the 36-gown collection. Guyon added some stylish contemporary twists.
The front lapel of a square monochrome jacket was cut to evoke Cubism - the side of a guitar, alongside a panel featuring a musical score. The look then frothed out thanks to a sheer tulle skirt, and knee-high leather boots gave it a street-wise kick.
IRIS VAN HERPEN HITS 10 YEARS, GOES AQUATIC
Celebrating 10 years at the helm of her fashion house, lauded conceptual couture designer Iris Van Herpen took a watery trip down memory lane for her mesmerising, aquatic couture spectacle.
The near-illusionist backdrop had guests reaching for their cameras.
Van Herpen has a penchant for the dramatic and Monday’s show did not disappoint: Musicians were encased inside a water-filled tank with instruments to accompany the collection.
The water theme dripped out into the surreal, brooding couture creations that revisited the Dutch wunderkind’s signature fusion of organic forms with technology and mechanics. White gowns, constructed of tendrils or fibres, provoked myriad interpretations — evoking simultaneously the lines of a sound wave, the rippling sea or the gills of a fish.
The silhouettes were varied but infused with large Asian-style sleeves and exaggerated proportions. Motifs on a floor-length Asian-style gown resembled fossils buried at the bottom of the sea, while a curved front panel of a skirt jutted out three-dimensionally like the silvery, metallic fins of a fish.