Christian Dior: Fantasy phantom-thread couture
The common thread of the latest Christian Dior haute couture collection was, well, threads, best expressed by the remarkable materials and unique set built for its runway show in Paris.
Staged Monday afternoon, the opening day of the four-day haute couture season in the French capital, the live catwalk show was held inside a magnificent rectangular tent, all of whose walls were decorated by gigantic abstract impressionist installation named, Chambre de Soie, courtesy of artist Eva Jospin.
Although, the starting point for Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri was reading Threads of Life, Scottish author Clare Hunter''s philosophical study of the influence of fabrics and materials in history.
“In this very difficult moment it’s very important to show solidarity around the world. And I was fascinated by Thomas’s interpretation of the role in so many societies and nationalities of textiles, and all the artisans and les petites mains who sew, weave and embroidered fabrics,” explained Chiuri in a pre-show preview.
Impressionism in multiple forms seen in the brilliant fabrics that were the raw material of this fall/winter 2021 collection. From striking combination of polyamide mesh interlaced with micro crystals to the stupendous velour jacquard floral patterns made by Bucol of Paris.
Though, the biggest fashion news was the subtle color co-ordination of multiple daywear looks: graduations of mottled gray tweed; knits and cashmere, seen in various neat bar jackets, pea-coats and blazer/cape combinations.
Chiuri likes her daywear polished yet always practical; with dozens of looks anchored by bias-cut tweed bovver boots. She also played with coats in panels of contrasting hues and fabrics; most brilliantly with a gray mosaic that will one be a centerpiece of a major fashion museum.
“A great maison like Dior can never forget the value of all these skilled embroiderers and craftspeople, and sometimes these skills are looked down on as mere domestic work. They are not; they are unique techniques and knowledge passed down from one generation to another,” stressed Chiuri.
The Italian designer was self-confident enough to experiment with many of Monsieur Dior’s own iconic looks, extending the bar jacket out from the torso and lengthening his full skirt, in a modernist twist of The New Look.
Though actual billionaire wives or Gulf princess clients are thin on the ground in Paris, there was no shortage of movie star firepower in the front-row, Jessica Chastain joining Cara Delevingne on either side of Dior CEO Pietro Beccari.
Totaling 75 passages, the show however sagged in the middle. The Stakhanovite Chiuri must be tired of helming so many commercial and critical hit shows for Dior. Two weeks ago she staged a cruise collection in Athens; the week before this couture show she was busy preparing October’s next ready-to-wear show. So, it felt like her self-editing button was switched off. Pruning a half dozen of over 20 gray looks would have helped.
That said, for evening Chiuri dreamed up several beautiful chiffon empire-waist dresses with trains that most women would dream of wearing.
Once again, Chiuri smartly referenced an idea from the house’s longest running couturier Marc Bohan, a 1964 jockey hat named the Ludovic.
“Bohan joining the '60s youth quake with a witty riding hat, after years of big floral constructions from Dior,” noted Stephen Jones, the house’s long term milliner. A Qui Etes-Vous Polly Magoo that is sure to start a mega revival.
Very much a Franco-Italian partnership, between Roman-born Chiuri and Frenchwoman Jospin, who once studied in the Villa Medici in Rome, the French cultural institute in the Italian capital.
While in Rome, Jospin visited Palazzo Colonna, discovering the remarkable Salle aux Broderies room, whose walls are all finished in fabric panels.
In the end, Jospin’s massive tableau for Dior hinted at a slew of artists and their works – from Turner’s seascapes and Bonnard’s gardens; to Robert’s ancient ruins and Vuillard’s paysages.
Much of it sewn and embroidered in India, Chambre de Soie is a giant work of some 100 meters long, produced by Dior, and providing a perfect backdrop for the house’s newest couture. Chambre de Soie will now remain as an installation in the garden of the Rodin Musuem for six days.
Jospin is due to stage her next exhibition in Giverny, and the shrine to Impressionism that is the home of Claude Monet. A likely next stop for her latest massive oeuvre.
Christian and Claude would surely have approved.
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