Christian Dior’s creative director Raf Simons brought a “garden of earthly delights” to Paris Fashion Week on Monday, slipping models into luxurious chainmail in a couture collection inspired by mediaeval art and fashion.
Sashaying down a lilac catwalk, models in flowing silk taffeta gowns inspired by the Belle Epoque and cowl-necked cloaks in deep purple and black reminiscent of the late Middle Ages, would not have been out of place in an episode of Game of Thrones.
Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o was one of the stars attending Dior’s autumn-winter unveiling on the second day of the couture shows unique to Paris.
Simons said his collection was inspired by the Old Masters of Flemish painting and the age-old fusion ofart, history and fashion.
“I was intrigued by the idea of forbidden fruit and what that meant now,” said Simons in a statement.
“The idea of purity and innocence versus luxury and decadence and how that is encapsulated by the idea of Dior’s garden — no longer a flower garden but a sexual one.”
Draped gowns and historical sleeves, hand-painted patterns and coats resembling Middle Age mantles provide a “broad sweep” of fashion history.
Glittering chainmail peeking from beneath a short taffeta dress with sleeves cinched at the wrists, or placed over another as a gilet, put jewellery at the focus of the outfit.
Over a long billowing gown hanging delicately from the shoulders, a heavy gold chain dripped from the model’s neck.
– Schiaparelli in 1930s Paris –
Italian fashion legend Elsa Schiaparelli continued to haunt her eponymous brand a year after the long-dormant house made its comeback.
French designer Bertrand Guyon debuted his first collection for Schiaparelli in which he was inspired by a young Elsa, giving a nod to her signature patterns, colour — known as Schiaparelli pink — and friendship with Salvador Dali.
With necklines plunging to the navel, plaid dressed up with pink-splashed fur and bright colours throughout, the collection was entitled “Elsa’s Theatre” in a nod to the Parisian stage of the 1930’s.
Each of the 36 outfits with silhouettes Guyon described as “measured elegance” was named after a play from the period.
Actress Meg Ryan attended the show at the swanky Place Vendome, where Schiaparelli opened her couture house in 1935.
But it was a younger Elsa who inspired Guyon, who has designed for Valentino, Givenchy and Christian Lacroix.
“What interested me were these austere, simple, lesser-known silhouettes, which don’t immediately remind us of Elsa Schiaparelli,” he said of the woman who was one of fashion’s most prominent figures between the two world wars and became Coco Chanel’s biggest rival.
“She was probably quite a reserved woman, rather shy, but with a sense of theatre, of extravagance but always measured, chic.”
The collection provided several glimpses of Schiaparelli’s work — the trompe l’oueil Tears print designed for her by Dali, the sun, stars and locks.
“Bertrand really captured the essence of Schiaparelli,” said former model and the house’s brand ambassador Farida Khelfa.
“We can see it in the clothes, the embroidery, the fur, the tartan, the cape, it is really the Schiaparellian universe.”
The five-day fashion extravaganza will run until Thursday.
The highlight of the week will be German fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld’s collection celebrating his 50 years with Fendi, which has hailed the “longest relationship between a designer and a fashion house.”
The show on Wednesday will be entirely “haute fourrure” or couture fur — a material the luxury fashion brand has never shied away from.