PARIS (AP) – Pioneering black performer Josephine Baker – who left the United States in the 1920s to find world fame in Paris – was Dior’s muse for a spring couture collection of old-school archetypal classicism.
With her caressing velvets and silks, embroidery, sequins and tiny silver studs, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri may not have reinvented the wheel, but she certainly embellished it beautifully on the first Monday of Paris Fashion Week.
But the first day of the event was not without controversy after Dior was criticized for inviting a Ukraine-sanctioned Russian influencer. Additionally, Schiaparelli was the subject of online ire for glorifying trophy hunting after showing off a fake lion’s head.
Here are some highlights of the first day of the spring-summer haute couture exhibitions:
BAKER BY DIOR
The perfume-scented interiors of an outbuilding in the gardens of the Rodin Museum featured huge paintings by African-American artist Mickalene Thomas by Josephine Bake, alongside other Black American female icons.
The rugged tableaux photographs documented Baker’s extraordinary life and her many roles: as a member of the French resistance, civil rights activist and humanist as well as dancer and performer.
The guests took their seats curiously and excitedly.
According to Dior, a line of coats, a take on bathrobe styles, depicts “the cozy, intimate dressing room that precedes (Baker’s) appearance on stage.” In couture terms, they were undeniably beautiful, if a bit demure. The first came in silk velvet; his black diamond lapels hung with a dramatic weight. It was worn over delicately smocked satin swimwear in a nod to the 1950s. Elsewhere, a knit-like mesh of silk and steel beads cut a delicate vintage style in an ensemble while evoking a quiet feminine power. It was worn atop a lustrous crumpled velvet gown to suggest intimacy.
Later, Chiuri let her hair down slightly and put on her fringes. Baker’s heyday was evoked in a mesh skirt with steel beads and sparkling fringes.
Although the theme raised expectations that the Dior clothes themselves might offer a powerful take on racism or blackness, the collection itself remained very Parisian. It was just a veiled tribute to the black pioneer who fought race, gender and nationality her entire life.
That being said, the number of models of color attending the show – in over half of the 60 looks – was admirable, particularly given that Paris Fashion Week and the luxury industry at large have struggled with ongoing accusations of being white-centric.
MAISIE WILLIAMS AS DIOR’S SISTER
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams looked gorgeous in every way as she posed in front of pictures of the likes of Earth Kitt, Nina Simone and Baker sporting pixie haircuts and Dior bustiers to flashes from photographer lenses.
Williams called attending the show “a dream,” in part because she just played Dior’s sister Catherine Dior on the highly anticipated Apple TV drama series The New Look, which centers on the bitter rivalry between the couturier and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
Williams, who rose to fame playing the feisty Arya Stark, told the Associated Press, “I think the Dior woman is something to really aspire to,” calling the clothing “strong” for women.
“The women I like to play have qualities that match,” she said.
SANCTIONS RUSSIAN INFLUENCER INVITED
Dior provoked criticism online for inviting a Russian TV presenter named Yana Rudkovskaya to a Paris couture show, which was sanctioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on January 15 for her ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other houses have reportedly refused to let Rudkovskaya, who is an influencer, onto their shows.
Rudkovskaya posted a photo of her Dior couture invitation on Instagram. Some journalists asked how many “other sanctioned Russians attend haute couture in Paris.”
SCHIAPARELLI MAKES SURREAL TWISTS
Glamorous frivolity, exaggerated silhouettes and surreal interpretations of classics from house founder Elsa Schiaparelli’s heyday in the 1930s.
That was the vibe at the first spring-summer couture show of the season – and what a start! — with lots of gold, lavish decorations and the appeal of the VIPs from the front row in the sublime gilded atrium of the Petit Palais.
Designer Daniel Roseberry was on top form on Monday – he took classic styles and gave them unexpected twists. A dark tuxedo with stiff, oversized shoulders has been transformed into a space-age minimalist jumpsuit.
A bronze bustier, redesigned as a giant oyster shell, rose like a fan, obscuring the model’s face. His incredible beaded embellishments have been rendered in organic, crystallized layers that show the skill of the house atelier.
Countless ornate balls – almost like wet pearls – organically dripped from a puffy bolero jacket that cut a beautiful silhouette and might have belonged to an underwater princess.
However, the collection was also a tribute to the house’s founder, whose unique brand of frivolity charmed audiences around the world. A giant lion’s head – crammed with fangs and a bushy mane – sculpted by Irina Shayk added a bite to this collection. It was an original nod to surrealism – but also a statement about the absurdity of using fur.
Kylie Jenner, who sat in the front row at Schiaparelli’s, also sporting a 3-D lion’s head and a gold snakeskin bag, was later criticized online for glorifying animal cruelty.
IRIS VAN HERPEN GOES DIGITAL
Bucking the tide of Paris Fashion Week turning its back on the digital world, Dutch Wunderkind said of her latest couture offering that she is “proud to announce that … instead of a traditional runway show, the brand is showing a digital presentation, allowing for more.” creative freedom and storytelling.”
A face-to-face presentation accompanied the collection film Carte Blanche, in which she teamed up with a French artist named Julie Gautier to explore how female beauty can be used as a form of control.
A floppy red dress with tendons baring inches of flesh resembled a venomous sea creature, while interlocking circles resembled spiky but precious coral. Billowing blue and silver panels of bounty fabric on one gown flowed like an underwater bounty – touching on the award-winning couturier’s signature organic inspiration, who has designed for the likes of Bjork.