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Dior and Schiaparelli bring historical reverence to Haute Couture Week in Paris

PARIS (AP) — Dior’s couture show at Paris' Musee Rodin wove an intricate Ottoman tapestry for spring and attracted a tapestry of stars to rival it Monday. Rihanna, Natalie Portman, Elizabeth Debicki, Ali Wong, Felicity Jones, Glenn Close, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, and Carla Bruni were among the VIP guests on hand to admire Maria Grazia Chiuri's latest fusion of art and fashion.

An installation by artist Isabella Ducrot adorned the runway walls. The set called “Big Aura” featured myriad oversized dresses, each towering up to 5 meters (16.4 feet) high, that were reminiscent of Ottoman sultans’ attire and hinted at the masterful show theme — the deft uniqueness of couture.

Here are some highlights of spring 2024 couture displays in Paris:

DIOR'S UNIQUE APPROACH TO COUTURE

It began with an understated yet powerful beige trench, worn with the large collar draping over a bare torso and complemented by a raw pearl double choker reminiscent of teeth that added a subtle bite.

Chiuri’s interplays of architectural silhouettes and innovative materials were out in force for a diverse collection that had a lot to say, seamlessly intertwining the historical richness of Ottoman styles with the contemporary.

Yet, the show’s scope extended beyond historic influences: It was very much a Dior show. A draped skirt embroidered with metallic Ottoman-style threads exemplified Dior’s own haute couture legacy.

Above all, it served as a homage to the unsung heroes of haute couture: Dior’s legendary seamstresses. Their artistry was vividly showcased in pieces like a crocheted field flower twine top, a teeming tapestry of intricate blooms that had guests reaching for their cameras. It was the piece de resistance.

Further delving into Dior’s rich history, the La Cigale dress, an iconic piece from Christian Dior’s autumn-winter 1952 collection, was revisited. It was reimagined for the modern era, standing out with its sculptural construction and luxurious moiré fabric.

The ambition of the collection was its only weakness, sometimes leading it to skirt the edges of thematic coherence. One example was an elegant, long black crepe wrap dress, which, while stylish, seemed incongruous in the display as a whole.

Perhaps this was the point. Ducrot’s installation underscored the theme of unique haute couture auras, garments that transcend fashion to reflect the wearer’s individuality.

SCHIAPARELLI'S SURREAL FUSION OF HISTORY AND KINK

Schiaparelli, piloted by the inventive Daniel Roseberry, inaugurated Haute Couture Week with a celebration of glamour, surrealism, and historical reverence. The collection was a vivid tableau of the house’s 1930s glory days under the late, great Elsa Schiaparelli, fused with a provocative twist that electrified the VIP audience.

Opening with a dominatrix-inspired black PVC-style gown, complete with an Elizabethan choker, the show was a study in historic contrasts. This modern reinterpretation of the choker, blending the grandeur of yesteryear with a nod to BDSM aesthetics, showcased Roseberry’s ingenious ability to weave art and high fashion with tongue-in-cheek.

A standout piece, a 17th-century black cape with rope adornments, mirrored the kinky spikes of a BDSM submissive while being set against a bejeweled neck clasp. Beyond its tantalizing exterior, the ensemble underscored Schiaparelli’s commitment to craftsmanship.

Roseberry’s tribute to the house’s founder was masterfully displayed in a pearl suit jacket ensemble with tubular, sculptural arms that redefined the human form. This piece, and others, exemplified his surreal take on classics, a hallmark of Elsa Schiaparelli’s original vision.

The show’s zenith was a dramatic black sheer lace screen top, sprawling out with intricate vein-like details, reminiscent of an insect’s wings — an embodiment of the house’s surrealist roots.

It was a stunning blend of Schiaparelli’s glamorous frivolity and exaggerated silhouettes, reimagined for a contemporary age.

JENNIFER LOPEZ SHINES

Jennifer Lopez embraced a daring new look at Schiaparelli. The megastar captivated onlookers at the Petit Palais venue with a striking white coat, a masterpiece adorned with real white rose petals that cascaded over a textured white turtleneck sweater. This floral fantasy was a Roseberry creation, the house said.

The star’s new chin-length bob, slicked back in a slightly wet style, added an edge.

THE DISAPPEARING RUNWAY: A CALL FOR REVAMPED SEATING

In the fast-paced world of modern fashion, some runway shows, including those by Dior and others, may benefit from rethinking audience seating arrangements.

At Dior's couture show, all four benches of guests were placed at the same height, a stark contrast to the Dior menswear shows where back rows were tiered higher. This setup led to complaints from some attendees, who found themselves able to see only the top half of the couture designs — especially in the age of camera-wielding guests — hindering a complete appreciation of the collection.

The seating issue has sparked discussions among fashion enthusiasts and critics alike, with many feeling that the arrangement feels elitist, privileging front-row viewers while limiting the experience for others.

One back-row guest humorously remarked, “I might have just to review the collection’s top half.”

VALLI’S FLOURISHES AND FLAIR

The air was perfumed, the carpet a lush pink, and the music orchestral and suspenseful as VIPs gathered at Giambattista Valli’s show in Place Vendôme. True to Valli’s signature flair for drama, the collection dazzled in shades of peony and powder pink, punctuated by bold reds, tangerine, and obsidian.

The show contrasted tiny, glittering bodysuits with immense tulle trains and asymmetrical bows of gargantuan proportions. Opening with a silk velvet bodysuit adorned with silk organza roses, the collection transitioned into draped tulle skirts and trains, a testament to Valli’s mastery of extravagant volume.

Crystals and bows were abundant throughout. Balloon sleeves and velvet trains were reminiscent of Elizabethan opulence, while dropped shoulders unfurled like blossoms, blending historical elements with contemporary couture. Each piece segmenting the female form into architectural tiers, another Valli signature, showcased his expertise in creating striking silhouettes.

The show culminated in a moment of pure theatrics: the bridal gown’s extravagant train, so voluminous, caught against the feet of front-row VIPs, in a symbolic moment of collection’s unbridled excess.

Valli has consistently celebrated opulence and romanticism and his couture shows are known for their escapist qualities, offering a world of pure aesthetic joy and visual relaxation.

RAHUL MISHRA’S ECLECTIC EASTERN FANTASY

Rahul Mishra’s couture was a celebration of eastern opulence and vibrant artistry. The show – clearly unafraid of excess -- unfurled in bursts of color. The opening was marked by a striking dragonfly motif, embroidered on a sheer disc that resembled gossamer, adorning a model in a luminous gold turban. This imagery, echoing Mishra’s fascination with nature’s enchanting creatures, set the tone for a divergent collection.

Two bare-chested men in turbans and shimmering silver sequined sultan pants continued the eastern theme.

Any unity of the collection lay in its unapologetic vibrancy. Silver tiered ponchos, sparkling disco flares, and sheeny metallic blue suits paraded down the runway as did a dragonfly motif reimagined as a colossal bow at the midriff, crafted in silver and pearl.

Giant tulle hooded gowns, almost engulfing the models, showcased Mishra’s flair for dramatic volumes.

Rahul Mishra is an Indian fashion designer, known for his unique approach to design, which often integrates traditional Indian craftsmanship with contemporary fashion.