It was 2pm on a chilly, sunny winter’s day in Paris and the square mile around the Musée Rodin in the 7th arrondisement was packed with limousines and Ubers inching down the road towards Rue De Varenne. I was parked inside the corner brasserie, packed with fashion types from all over the world, who like me, were having typical French fare of roasted chicken and pomme frites, or a Croque Madame for those who couldn’t be seen ingesting anything bigger than their palm. Anyone who was anyone was here for the debut haute couture showing by Dior’s first female artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. Later that same night was Dior’s masked ball, feted as the biggest event of the week―we were promised a masquerade ball to end all balls with its own moon, a legion of masked horsemen and a troop of unicorns on the midnight lawn.
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I finished my lunch, and slowly made my way to Musée Rodin, and watched street style photographers risk turning into road kill trying to get a snap of Italian super blogger, Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad fame. She was wearing Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt, a black Bar jacket and tulle skirt from Chiuri’s first spring/summer 2017 collection. It was perfect street style fodder―the t-shirt was immediately recognisable as Dior and the tulle skirt a lovely feminine contrast. The Swiss super blogger, Kristina Bazan, wore the same white slogan tee with a coat draped past her shoulders and a bright red lip. How these girls could bear the arctic temperatures in little more than lingerie and a flimsy cotton top is anyone’s guess―but it’s their job to get snapped and they wore possibly this season’s single strongest fashion item with aplomb.
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As I walked past the lovely marble statues by Rodin, I could see in the distance, that the gardens of Musée Rodin had been recreated into a labyrinth of sorts―a garden path that led up the stairs to a wondrous forested maze of earthly delights. I learnt later, from Chiuri, that this represented Dior to her―a metaphor of sorts, “Couture is very close with the Dior atelier, and when I started to work with them, I felt that it was a labyrinth in a way. I was a little bit worried to go inside because there is a huge House tradition about couture. I was at a cross roads because while I know couture, I had to find a way to work with them, which had to be the right way, yet at the same time, be that spark of inspiration and ideas.” Right in the middle of the runway stood a massive tree hanging with lights and pagan ornaments. This was, as Chiuri described, “The tree of life. It’s the moment when you find the way of your life. The labyrinth metaphorically represents the paths, roads and journeys you have to take in life and the tree is the ultimate destination.”
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Inside the tent, there weren’t any salon chairs or white benches. In their place, neatly piled into mini hedge rows of bushes (and randomly sprinkled with flowers, plants and moss) were the all-front row seats for the buyers, journalists, influencers and important VIPs. Each space was denoted by a plush moss green velvet cushion, with the seat number and honey bee embroidered in gold. When the runway fairies and damsels came out, resplendent in Chiuri’s feminine yet modern vision of Dior, it was clear that her goal was to set a new perspective for this French house. Inspired by the words of Christian Dior, “After women, flowers are the most divine of creations. They are so delicate and charming, but they must be used carefully.” Out came evening dresses in powdery colours―think mauve, blue, pink and grey, which evoked the passing of the seasons and of life itself (a word Chiuri used often in our conversation). The evening tulle layers trapped exquisite flowers within. Others, like the lace cut-outs, were remounted on organza, and pleated tulle in fairy tale hues were layered for an ethereal and majestic effect. The gold tulle dresses had embroidered stars sewn on while tarot card symbols were hand painted on long dresses. The signature Bar jackets came out either with pleated peplums and sleeves―a much softer take and whimsically romantic―or reinvented as caped jackets. Long pleated skirts were actually roomy culottes with satin stripes down the side and the Domino coat came with an imposing black velvet hood.
The wonderful masks and head pieces by Stephen Jones, worn by many of the models, were each sketched in the accompanying show notes and brought an ethereal punk edge to the soft dresses. This was to set the mood for the ball later that night―damsels in diaphanous gowns lost in a forested labyrinth―stuff that dreams and fairytales are made of.
By Kenneth Goh