Paris Mens Fashion week just wrapped and Haute Couture week kicks off today with a bang: Dior, Givenchy and more… a nice distraction from the *real world* of inaugural protests and repealed legislation and “alternative facts”.
Winter sunshine blazing in Paris and across Europe – three cheers for that.
Notes on Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first Dior couture show: the one everyone’s been waiting for. Her first prêt-à-porter collection was /not bad/… good enough to be tantalising and leave the fashion world wanting more, but not enough to count as a home-run. Would Dior’s first female Creative Director pull off the same kind of transformational movement that Raf Simons managed a few years back with his maximalist Jeff-Koons-style fresh-flower-walls and minimalist-luxe ball gowns that had stars like Jennifer Lawrence literally falling over themselves? Only today (and time) would tell.
Watch the final walkthrough here: https://instagram.com/p/BPnaXTBD-qi/ (credit @fran.galvao)
The setting was spectacular enough. Verdant and romantic, a magical woodland. Yet the opening looks were timid… monochromatic, respectful, day-wear couture. Chiuri’s nod to the roots of the Maison and Christian Dior’s seminal New Look. Watching the first models step out onto the moss-covered, winding runway, I felt anxious – would there just be minimally updated archival pieces (Bar jackets with hoods)? If so, the house of Dior would soon be scrambling to spin some marketing magic and forced to flex some serious LVMH muscle to win press coverage.
Fortunately there were a few things up Mme Chiuri’s (pleated, draped, open, chiffon) sleeves. Glimmers of hope as the looks drifted farther away from homage to Monsieur Dior, and closer to the looks we have seen before on the Valentino runway where Chiuri first came to global attention as co-creative-designer. Flowing, romantic, floral. A touch too theatrical or costume-y at times (think Game of Thrones meets the Raphaelite-school paintings), but still worthy of the Dior name (and craftsmanship, and price tag!). It is clear that evening-wear and red-carpet gowns are Maria’s strong suit (irony notwithstanding).
The highlights for me were the gowns which seemed to say “a woman designed this, for other women”. These gowns were beautiful, yet a little twisted, with volupté and warmth; rounded rather than sharp and sculptural. They didn’t seem exploitative, nor over-sexed (Maria is more Miuccia than Donatella).
Unfortunately, too few “strong” looks that will be instantly recognisable on a magazine cover. No “must-have” accessories (think Raf’s instant-classic bejewelled track shoes), nor distinctive styling… gauze veils and masks and feathered headpieces notwithstanding.
Verdict: A somewhat shaky but still good-enough start. The world wants a more distinctive, differentiated point of view, not a “me-too” version of Valentino 2.0. It’s tough, but Chiuri’s job will be to prove that she can really creatively direct the ateliers and design teams at Dior to present desirable product, and also a clear point of view to stamp her vision into the design history books. Hopefully Chiuri’s career at Dior will be like this show – a quiet, restrained start that blossoms to life with time.