Paris Haute Couture Day Two: Dior’s Black Architectures and Chiuri’s légion d’honneur

The most unsophisticated mistake that you could make is to consider the Haute Couture just an excess of decorations for impossible clothing and large headpieces. On the contrary, it’s a matter of ability often based on the most difficult construction turned into something simple, light, and wearable. “We are living in a speedy society where everything is consumed by the next relevant or irrelevant thing. There’s no time for analysis, no time for depth and feelings,” said Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior Creative Director, before the show. “The world we are living in requires only simple and fast information to be quickly consumed, and the consequence is that to be safe in such a system, we fall into stereotypes which has made the world flat, slow, and predictable.” In reaction to this “jingle society” format, Chiuri went deeply into the works of Austrian-American architect Bernard Rudofsky (notable for his studies about the relationship between human beings and the essence of design), who once analyzed the functions of clothes for the exhibition he curated at the MoMA “Are Clothes Modern?” (1944).

Dior Fall/Winter 2019 Haute Couture show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

The result was a beautiful collection that showed the semiotic observations the designer made. Black featherweight dresses, all orbiting around the concept of the silhouettes. The flair was slighlty rétro, but nothing looked vintage or nostalgic. The incredible savoir faire of the Maison was easy to get even in the low lit venue. The use of rare fabrics was masterful, for example the résille once used for the hats and here proposed for mesh undergarments. The tailoring was purified of the unnecessary, so the complexity of the manufacturing met the lightness of the constructions for a final fresh and modern result. “The architecture of the clothes made me also think of Belgian director Agnès Varda,” explained Chiuri. “So I wanted to pay homage to her documentary about the cariatides ‘Les dites cariatides’ as female creatures that have always supported the burden of the world and architecturally were the columns of temples and building. Monsieur Dior was also fascinated by the Greek peplum and his construction around the body as he even used it for his final collection.” The palette was all black (except the first white peplum dress with a Rudofsky phrase and three metallic dresses at the end of the show) as this is a staple colour for the maison. “I feel like a 'generation black'” person as I love this colour, but also for Christian Dior it was the synonym of elegance, so I started also from here to create everything. The idea of the project is pivotal in Chiuri’s view as she feels that the new generations are missing a real understanding of the ability to plan; fashion is not only what we see on the catwalk or in the shop windows, it’s also a very complex process. That’s why her observation became a sort of conversation with Rudofsky that led to a nearly scientific approach. The final look was a coup de théâtre: the golden house dress made in collaboration with British-born American artist Penny Slinger, famous as a surreal feminist, who wanted to create a doll house that Chiuri turned into the Maison building dress. As tribute to the famous headquarters, Slinger also decorated the rooms of 30 Avenue Montaigne where the défilé took place; the iconic offices will be completely renovated. On the same day of the show, Maria Grazia Chiuri was honoured by the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits) becoming Chevalier and awarded by Marlène Schiappa, French Secretary of Equality between women and men. This recognition celebrates Chiuri’s commitment to the feminist thoughts and philosophies she injected into the French House. With the ideal of female empowerment and sisterhood, the designer wanted to affirm a dialogue between yesterday’s, today’s, and future generations. For this, she set up a new relationship between fashion, art, and activism. “I'm honoured and surprised for this recognition in France, a country where fashion and culture have a special meaning. I’m touched, as I always feel unprepared for such big accomplishments,” said Chiuri.

Giambattista Valli Fall/Winter 2019 Haute Couture exhibition in Paris. Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti for NOWFASHION.

The ability to create beautiful volumes and shapes has become the DNA of the Giambattista Valli language in establishing his vision of couture; even his prêt-à-porter collections aspire to complex, surprising constructions. “To be honest, the successful collaboration with H&M put me in the situation of not having enough time to set up the show as I wished,” said the designer at the exhibition where for the first time he showed his new haute couture collection off of the runaway. “But strangely, this was a hint for me to find a new context to display my creations. It has been a long time since I wanted to do something like this with a museum-style show where the clothes are the protagonists.” The itinerary started with his signature blouse blanche from his first collection, and then the Valli style bloomed through a triumph of his famous fabric flowers and rouches. Everything was balanced, and actually this format gave more strength to the collection over the traditional catwalk where, sometimes, the lightness of the look does not correspond with the actual execution of the garment. “I feel that this has been the most inward-looking work I did so far; I’m very happy with the result,” he commented while walking through the halls. “I learned how to ration my creativity and how to find the right balance in the process. When I decided to exhibit the clothes still, I went into an obsessive search for precision because, in this way, every detail must be perfect, so the exceptional craftsmanship came out.”

Schiaparelli Fall/Winter 2019 Haute Couture show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Considering this, it’s not easy to be familiar with the Haute Couture language and skills if you are not used to it. It’s not enough to create extravagant clothes with abundant decorations to enter this world. Sometimes it is the capacity to reduce, instead of adding, hide instead of showing, that makes a Couture collection memorable. This is what happened to the debut collection of Daniel Roseberry, new at Schiaparelli, the iconic Maison from Place Vendôme in Paris (now owned by Tod's Group of the Italian entrepreneur Diego Della Valle). The 33-year-old and Texas-born designer appointed last November as the new Creative Director served Thom Browne (now owned by Zegna Group) in New York for 10 years as Head of Men and Women's collections. Today's show was a three-episode story where the designer wanted to describe the different moments in the day of the Schiaparelli woman: the day, the night, and the dream. Roseberry sat at the table in the middle of the room and, while drawing (he loves to do this), the 30 models came out. From daywear to evening gowns, it was a crescendo of constructions, colours, and decorations. The final result looked a bit confusing as there wasn't the fil rouge that pulled all the looks and stories together. Each one of those was a story in itself, and it was difficult to find a relationship between them and the inspiration. Of course, the burden of a debut was incredibly heavy, and it's not the first collection to ratify the success of a new adventure, but there is the need to create a couture language and structure in order to avoid entering a territory that is very parlous. Sometimes the catwalk is a killer if the clothes are not fiercer than it is; so, maybe, playing safe with less and more focused looks would have helped Roseberry with a more keen and accurate start.