PARIS — 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.
Here are some highlights of Monday’s fall-winter 2017 collections.
Dior Front Row
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.
“I’m going to stand in the shade as it’s just too hot,” model Karlie Kloss explained as she raced away momentarily for the refuge of a tree from her front row seat.
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.
Dior’s Female Empowerment
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 – as the house’s first female head.
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.
Gemma Arterton’s a Feminist
“Clash of the Titans” actress Gemma Arterton, who attended the fall-winter show, credited Chiuri – Dior’s first ever female designer – 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.
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.
Ralph and 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 favorite – 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.
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 mesmerizing, 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 fibers, 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.
Carla Bruni Signs at AmfAR Dinner
Popstar and former French First Lady Carla Bruni serenaded VIP guests at AmfAR’s fundraising dinner and auction at Paris’ Petit Palais to raise money for the global fight against HIV and AIDS.
Bruni sang her new song “Enjoy the Silence,” as well as a soulful rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” before the energetic auction began Sunday night.
Among the objects was a rare print of a publicity shot of late singer David Bowie for his LP “Diamond Dogs” — taken by photographer Terry O’Neill – that was snapped up for 20,000 euros (USD $22,700). And a week on a 44-meter (144-foot) yacht went under the hammer for 115,000 euros (USD $130,800).
The evening also marked the Paris launch of amfAR’s new fragrance, Gala, which was conceived as a tribute to the Foundation’s founding international chairman, Elizabeth Taylor, the first celebrity to have her own line of fragrances.
Chaumet’s Secret Circus Party
“The Artist” star Berenice Bejo, Spanish actress Rossy de Palma and “Harry Potter” star Clemence Poesy were among guests at jeweler Chaumet’s circus-themed gala Sunday night that aims to promote its upcoming high jewelry line.
VIP guests were picked up outside Chaumet’s Place Vendome headquarters by a vintage 1936 bus and jerkily driven to a secret location, slurping champagne. There were gasps of wonder as the bus pulled up to the “Musee des Arts Forains,” a little-known private museum near the Seine River that houses a collection of funfair objects.
Inside, guests saw merry-go-rounds, performers and a hall of mirrors and were served candy floss in a surreal recreated funfair.
Chaumet is showcasing its sparkling designs at the end of Paris Couture Week.
Story: Thomas Adamson