PARIS — Maria Grazia Chiuri’s celebrations of women for Christian Dior have typically been based on the work of a female artist, usually with a more abstract inspiration. However, the Haute Couture collection she showed on Monday was based on a real life, Josephine Baker, an entertainer, activist, and Black icon, and it was stronger for it.
Chiuri started with a collection of old photos of Baker performing in New York in the 1950s wearing Dior clothes. However, the designer drew a parallel to the 1920s, when Baker first arrived in Paris and became a sensation at the Revue Nègre and the Folies Bergère. To the single spotlight of the cabaret star, a clutch of spectacularly simple columnar evening gowns made of glistening satin and decadently toned crushed velvet sang, each crumpled and lived in.
Daywear made up the majority of the collection: (Haute Couture)
tailored coats, dresses, and suits in some of Monsieur Dior’s favorite men’s fabrics. The hair, makeup, and footwear (embroidered velvet shoes with a hunky mid-heel) contributed to the vintage feel of the lengths, which were a sober mid-calf. However, the outcome was quite pleasing. Chiuri chose the tuxedo coat as a personal favorite from her new collection because those women resonated with her. Fred Astaire and Cary Grant didn’t do nearly as much for a man’s tuxedo as Baker and Dietrich did.) She continued, “That’s what I like for myself, really clean and timeless.” And it’s possible that this collection’s subtle kick came from its personal, intimate resonance. It was alive.
Look 1 from Dior Haute Couture for Spring/Summer 2023. Digital) Naturally, given that it was also a Christian Dior show, it required extravagant contextualization.
In her trademark style, American artist Mickalene Thomas created 13 photo-based collages to honor Baker and a dozen other Black women who had paved the way in their respective fields. These women included Dorothy Dandridge in films, Nina Simone and Lena Horne in music, and Donyale Luna in modeling. The Chanakya School of Craft in Mumbai created giant embroidered wall pieces that replicated them. Chiuri stated emphatically, “Women, and great women artists, don’t celebrate themselves enough.” I can’t stop pushing women. When the music stopped, as usual, I was wondering where these remarkable works of contemporary art would go.
Sculptural animal forms made of cardboard, wood, and paper by Xavier Veilhan accompanied a show that show designer Virginie Viard envisioned as “a spontaneous village festivity,” providing additional contemporary art at the Chanel show on Tuesday morning. Perhaps Midsommar or The Wicker Man? The massive abstract creatures that were wheeled into an oddly gloomy show space reminded one of those cult classics. When an elephant burst onto the stage at the conclusion of the performance, it became even more apparent that there were models concealed within, possibly a nod to Spinal Tap. Anna Ewers, a virgin bride wearing a veil embroidered with swallows, emerged from this enormous structure.
In an odd way, it was a perfect distillation of the collection itself, being klutzy and kultish like a Trojan horse and a child’s horsey. (Haute Couture)
It ensured that the clothes had a sparkly, frothy fairytale naivete that appeared bizarrely at odds with haute couture’s expression of a fundamentally adult sophistication, despite the fact that it embodied haute couture in the extraordinary techniques used to make the clothes. In point of fact, the same level of artistic sophistication that influenced the original bestiary in Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment on Rue Cambon, the Coco ur-zone that Viard introduced Veilhan to at the beginning of their collaboration, was also present.
Look 1 from Chanel Haute Couture for Spring/Summer 2023. In any case, let’s return to the attire. Viard liked the idea of majorettes, who would wear flared skirts or shorts, laced booties, and maybe even a shorter swing coat to lead a small-town parade of Americana. Models wore bowties and top hats as if they were ringmasters in the circus of abstract animals that crowded the arena in an awkward way. It took on a Girls-of-Guns-n-Roses vibe when that hat and tie accompanied the transparent, tiered formality of the black grouping toward the end of the show. She did, however, cover her bases by embedding a pearl-encrusted Corgi on classic Chanel tweed. Perhaps playing to the Palace?
In the end, when a house is as big as Dior or Chanel, the designers are limited by their ability to sell on the street.
It is permissible for haute couture to become an idiosyncratic Everest if they are doing that. A harlequin diamond pattern on the invitation to Giorgio Armani’s upcoming Privé show sparked both dread and curiosity. A runway in harlequins! So quickly to be replicated in the diamond-patterned looks that appeared on that runway.
Look 1 from Giorgio Armani Haute Couture for Spring/Summer 2023. In contrast, curiosity replaced the dread at that point. Armani never plays around with a theme. He is completely committed to Harlequins if he is in on them. What did that imply, then? Harlequin lived in the grand Italian commedia del arte tradition, which has its roots in Venice’s carnival. The shimmering floor-length sheaths had a sinuous flow that was analogous to water’s reflection.
However, Armani’s presentation also struck me as fundamentally bizarre, making me consider the significance of harlequins to Picasso, DeChirico, and their peers: the romantic and the fool. It’s clear that Giorgio still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
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