The setting for Dior’s Cruise 2017 show couldn’t be more apt: Held at the grand Blenheim Palace in the English countryside, it is a symbol that’s quintessentially British, built in the style the French dubbed Baroque.
It is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, and has been the backdrop for Dior haute couture presentations twice. Once in 1954 by Monsier Dior himself and then again in 1958 by his successor Yves Saint Laurent, in the presence of Princess Margaret, an aristocratic audience and the crème de la crème of society at the time.
Fast forward to today and the pale ochre palace still retains its grandiose air, unblemished by time, except for the signboards in green that invite you to share your experience via #MyBlenheimPalace.
You know you have reached the Internet age, which is essential when you are a living legacy to stay relevant in today’s digital age. This was not lost on the House of Dior, which created a cool app just for this historic event today—some 70 years after their alma mater first showed in the hallowed halls of this British institution.
And of course, being Britain, the rain came pouring down on what was supposed to be a summer’s day—though the fashionable crowd’s spirits remained undampened. The fashion cognoscenti were treated to lunch on the Blenheim Express (read: Orient Express) on a 2-hour journey to the British countryside of Woodstock, in the county of Oxford, where Blenheim Palace is located.
And for the occasion, a special platform in Victoria Station in London was outfitted in Dior’s signature dove grey. Think Harry Potter, albeit with much more expensive garb on a decidedly more stylish crowd.
Upon arrival at Blenheim, an entire British marching band in full red regalia greeted arrivals with sounds of trumpets and clashing cymbals—all the better to drown the torrential rain, which showed no sign of abating. Ironically, in the past, Dior’s cruise 2013 showing in Monaco was subjected to the deluge of rain, but today in good old Blighty, it seemed a fitting tribute to Britain and its erratic weather.
Inside the palace, stately rooms were transformed into a long walking runway, with golden chairs lining the path. A print of an English hunt—red coats on galloping horses across fields and pastures—lined the runway from one end of the palace to the other. This new print also appeared on the cruise runway fashion: Knitted as a jacquard weave on T-shirts and dresses, an ode to the history of a quintessentially British sport enjoyed by the monarchy and high society.
Leading the Dior design team for this collection (and the past one as well) was the Swiss duo: Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux. The inspiration for this cruise collection was not only British post-war high society wardrobes, but also the restlessness and wanderlust that characterized the period: the urge to travel; to discover the new.
From English country life via the tradition of the hunt where nineteenth-century equestrian scenes are knitted into intricate pictorial jacquards or fused into English country florals to rich devoré velvets, silks in Asian and African prints, filled with embroidery on ’40s puff sleeves and languid tea dresses. It underscored a mood of exploration, a curiosity about the world, and a fundamentally English eccentricity in dress—a story told through the expensive cloth on your back.
In short, British history meets Parisian haute couture in the best possible way.The volume is Dior, the reference is British, but the spirit is contemporary. The Bar jacket is bisected, the basque wrapping the hips; other times the shape is transposed to draped tea dresses. Each detail is drawn from the oeuvre of Monsieur Dior, a reflection of the House’s storied past. Dior’s signature bow is pulled undone, passed through the décolleté or draped like a foulard, adding dynamic movement to strict shapes.
Bags and footwear, essential pillars in today’s high fashion business, set the modernity and contemporary spirit to Dior’s new look for Cruise 2017. Waist bags and pouches came heavily embellished with sequins and beads for a sporty silhouette and feel with a couture take on fabrication. The classic dior flap shoulder bags with the signature cannage quilt, was accessorised with cute charms, heavier metal wear and double straps. Shoes came pointy end but grounded with heavy gold block heels at the back, colour blocked with zips and straps that spoke to IT girls who hunt for coolness in urban dwellings than foxes in English pastures.
The spirit of Dior for cruise 2017 may reference a storied past, friendship and allegiance of a Gallic British union, but with today’s fast paced fashion immediacy, this collection fuels a desire to shop and buy what’s in, what’s current and what’s very now. Let’s wait for the cash tills to ring.
By Kenneth Goh