If there were any doubters that Maria Grazia Chiuri was right for Dior there can be none now after a breathtaking debut haute couture collection blew away critics on Monday.
This was a fairytale start in every sense for the Italian designer who took the reins of the fabled French label last year.
One dreamlike ball gown after another trailed through the enchanted woodland maze she created for the show complete with a wish tree draped with charms and lights.
Photographs can hardly show the full emotional effect of these clothes as they swish by you.
Nor can you see the staggering detailing that built from sober, almost clerical, robes at the start of the show to heart-stoppers where a field full of poppies seemed to be trapped like butterflies in layers of tulle.
New York Times critic Vanessa Friedman tweeted “sheer romance” as the show ended and described one pleated gold lame dress veiled in black as “Titania’s gown” after the queen of the fairies in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
Her colleague Elizabeth Paton was also taken with it, tipping it for Oscars night. Others fawned over a “magical” series of gowns made from layered pleated tulle which Chiuri contrasted with Renaissance-style bustiers.
The designer — who broke up her three-decade-long partnership with Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino to move to Dior — told AFP that she had dived into the archives of the label’s famously superstitious founder Christian Dior for inspiration.
– Dresses for dancing all night –
She slipped tarot and talismanic symbols throughout the collection with one black and white gown embroidered with the all the signs of the Zodiac.
“Couture has to be magic and at the same time it has to be wearable,” Chiuri said. That’s why she combined all her ball gowns with low heels so their lucky owners can dance all night.
Haute couture is unique to Paris, with each piece handmade to measure for some of the richest women in the world.
One much-admired sage green tulle dress in the show with a spray of Impressionist-style flowers made from feathers took 2,200 hours to make, the label said.
The haute couture shows attract celebrities from all over the world to the French capital with Hollywood star Kirsten Dunst in the front row for the Ralph & Russo show Monday.
– Future world Van Herpen –
Earlier the Dutch designer Iris van Herpen proved yet again why she is regarded as one of fashion’s great visionaries.
Her shimmering hi-tech dresses seemed to appear from the future, transparent without being see-through, playing tricks with the eye so they looked like they could have been made from ice or even fish scales.
Her models walked through a computer circuit board set and the optical illusions continued in the futuristic poetry of her clothes that evoked both deep space and a deep sea world.
Some seemed to have been made from the chrysalis of an alien creature, or from swirling fossils or kombu seaweed.
Two awesome “Digital Glitch” dresses made from silk and lasercut hooped mylar looked almost like they were holograms, beamed in from an episode of Star Trek.
Van Herpen’s genius is that she can make such way out forms wearable thanks to her mastery of cutting edge materials and collaborations with architect Philip Beesley and Berlin artist Ester Stocker.
She said the show, called “Between the Lines”, set out to trick the “eye’s perspective and challenge it to see new patterns in between”.
Schiaparelli also embraced surrealism and lots of clever trompe l’oeil tricks for its colourful and elegant show which played on the revived couture house’s close historical links with artists Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Jean Miro.
A love-heart white mini suit with thigh-high red boots was mixed with dreamy feminine evening gowns, including one with a gorgeous bejewelled octopus clinging to its bodice.