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Dior gets surreal as stars talk Time’s Up at Paris couture

Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri projected a ludic mood at the Rodin Museum as top actresses weighed in on the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment at the start of Paris couture week. Here are highlights from Monday’s spring-summer 2018 collections:

Magic and illusion at Dior
Chiuri channeled surrealism for her predominantly black-and-white Dior show that brimmed with optical illusion and surprise. Chess board squares led around a mirrored runway adorned with hanging plaster sculptures: an ear, a torso, a nose, a hand and a cage. A series of A-line “domino” coats and gloves whimsically attached to an ankle set the tone for playful styles that were inspired by touchstones from the early 20th century artistic movement.

Gowns with visible caging – a surrealist leitmotif – played on transparencies. Eyes – a frequent reference for Salvador Dali – were emphasized by masks and exaggerated makeup. And the movement’s frequent depiction of plumes was captured in the most beautiful gown in the collection: a bustier dress made of huge white feathers. They billowed out dramatically in an hourglass silhouette from a cinched waist fastening. A “hypnotic” striped bustier dress with a dropped waist called “Vertigo” was handled less subtly. Alongside several of the gowns in dots and stripes, it suffered due to its black-and-white shapes that gave an unintended harsh edge to the otherwise feminine display.

Schiaparelli Channels 1930?S
Singers Kylie Minogue and Pixie Lott and actress Melissa George lined up at Schiaparelli’s morning show, which aptly kicked off couture week offering a view across the majestic Place Vendome. The age-old maison evoked the romantic nostalgia of the late Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1930s heyday, while cinched waists and ribboned espadrilles added touches of the 1950s style. Designer Bertrand Guyon was mainly on form this season – using rolling, layered pleats to evoke the 30s in a rose gold hand-painted silk chiffon gown. Its shoulders were lobbed off in a stylish contemporary touch.
A midnight blue dress evoked a slinky quality, produced by the weight of embroidered crystals on soft chiffon fabric. Elsewhere, fun post-war details were referenced as coarse raffia fringing jazzing up a multicolored banana tree fiber gown, and the house’s signature surrealist insect motifs infested a 1950s white faux-leather jacket. Sometimes, designs were a tad heavy-handed. But the piece de resistance, a black gown with a dramatic full skirt, fluttered by literally and figuratively with all-encompassing silver gilt butterflies.

Van Herpen’s abstractions
Iris Van Herpen deftly captured the beauty and fragility of nature in a sublime couture display. The decor of baroque-like swirls of fabric led the eye to the collection of 21 vibrant gowns that riffed on the organic. While she abandoned none of the abstract musing that has won her critical acclaim, the Dutch conceptual designer evolved this season’s styles in a more wearable direction.
Abstract foliage in aqua green, held together from a nude bodice, looked remarkably like it had grown from, or was fused with, the model’s body. A cascading silver gown that played on watery transparencies resembled a jelly fish with its myriad stripes and dots. The silhouette sometimes borrowed from the long sleeves or caped silhouette of the Middle Ages in a collection that stood out in the crowded couture calendar.

Proenza Schouler Channels 70S vibe
The New York-based ready-to-wear label Proenza Schouler delivered its sophomore display for Paris Couture Week and it was all about 1970s American craft. Center-partings, velvet, flared sleeves, tassels, turtlenecks, fringing and patchwork styles merged together – and always with subtlety – as they appeared to a funky, retro-sounding soundtrack.
The ethnic styles preferred by hippies of the era were referenced in giant statement necklaces, huge earrings and the clasps and beading on the flame red, black and brown looks. Indeed, it was fastidious detailing – what the house called “a sense of handcraft” – that defined the spirit of the perfectly executed designs. It was an accomplished, architectural collection for designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez.

Chanel goes girly with pretty-in-pink walk in the park
Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld dived into the brand’s archives for his pretty-in-pink haute couture Paris show yesterday, giving its founder Coco Chanel’s classics an intensely girly twist. Chanel liberated women from their Edwardian corsets a century ago and recut men’s tweeds and trousers to make the modern women’s wardrobe. Lagerfeld, 84, sporting a wispy white beard which is likely to make as many headlines as his clothes, took her classic silhouettes and turned the femininity dial up to sugar plum fairy.
Lagerfeld’s beard is the designer’s first radical change of image in nearly two decades since he lost 41 kilos (90 pounds) in order to squeeze into Hedi Slimane’s skinny black jeans. Much to the horror of many style watchers, the “Kaiser” wore it rather unkempt, with Harper’s Bazaar saying it made him look “surprisingly (intentionally, we’re sure) scruffy”. But social media were quicker to judgement. “Karl Lagerfeld growing out his beard. He looks like goth Santa Claus,” one person commented on Twitter.
There was nothing shabby about his uber-girly collection, however, which pushed pretty till it squeaked. Yet amid all the frills and feathers, the bride-the figure that traditionally closes Paris haute couture shows-wore trousers. Lagerfeld put Dutch model Luna Bijl in a white tuxedo with a long white feathered trailing cape. The designer’s nine-year-old godson, Hudson Kroenig, scattered rose petals at her feet. While rivals Dior make much of their feminist credentials these days under Maria Grazia Chiuri, Lagerfeld may have felt the need to signal that Chanel women are no pushovers either.

Teenage American stars
As well as closing the show, rising star Bijl, 19, also led out the run of pink and green beaded tweed suits that opened it. They were matched with similarly beaded mid-calf boots with transparent wedge heels, with some models wearing edged leather gloves in a very Lagerfeld finishing touch. If the set of a French formal garden complete with fountain was decidedly less overwhelming than Lagerfeld’s usual Grand Palais spectaculars, the flower theme was clear enough. As well as Sevillian black mesh flower fascinators, bouquets of tiny embroidered flowers lit up a large part of the collection that glinted with crystals and acres of fine embroidery. One bubble-gum pink flower-fringed bustier dress with matching pink crystal-encrusted boots skirted Barbiedom, but the veteran designer just about got away with it.

And there was a very early 1920s feel about a run of black and silver lace and organza dresses where Lagerfeld played up their slit pockets. Others, including a couple of coats, were hooped and cut just below the knee like sawn-off fish tails. While the front row was less starry than of late-British-Kosovanpop star Rita Ora rubbed shoulders with Russian actress and “Valerian” star Sasha Luss-Lagerfeld’s models included two of the catwalk’s new American teenager stars.
Kaia Gerber, 16, daughter of 1990s supermodel Cindy Crawford, who is working on a capsule collection of West Coast-inspired designs with the designer, walked with Cara Taylor, who is still only 15. Lagerfeld defended his choice of so young a model when Taylor first walked for him in Chanel’s ready-to-wear collection in March, telling AFP, “That is ridiculous. Kate Moss and Naomi (Campbell) all started at 12, 13, 14.”

Taylor, a 1.8-metre (5-foot-11) volleyball player from Huntsville, Alabama, has been modelling since last summer, when an agent spotted her in an Instagram photo. The haute couture shows-which are unique to the French capital-are the creme de la creme of fashion with sometimes thousands of hours going into the handmade dresses that can be afforded only by the richest women on the planet.-AP/AFP

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