Circus Christian Dior Couture
Haute couture has a new ringmaster, or mistress rather: Maria Grazia Chiuri, who staged a truly evocative and circus-inspired runway show in a Big Top inside the Rodin Museum on Monday afternoon.
Dior is traditionally the big catwalk event of the opening day of the four-day haute couture season; and this season Chiuri certainly did not disappoint. In one of her strongest collections to date for Dior, the Roman-born couturier injected the magic, mystery and melodrama of the circus into almost every look.
Her starting point was arguably the most famous black and white fashion photograph of all time, Richard Avedon’s shoot of model Dovima, wearing Dior, posed with an elephant inside Paris’ antique Cirque d’Hiver. Though Chiuri also managed to include references to Fellini’s cinema, Picasso’s Rose Period circus performers and Sergei Diaghilev dancers.
The collection also underlined how in control of her atelier is Chiuri, as the petites mains worked their magic; using the French technique of 'effilochée'; meaning unthreading a hem to turn into in a small cloud. Or embroidering phantasmagorical big cats, elephants and jugglers onto diaphanous evening gowns. Or, using the brilliant French embroidery house, Hurel, to complete a remarkable rose gown that looked dusted and dripped in miniature crystals.
“Fantastical, creative, chaos. Circus has always been a huge inspiration to so many artists. The dimensions are really unbelievable,” explained Chiuri, who connected the whole thing back to her hometown of Rome, referencing Jean Cocteau who developed the ballet 'Parade'.
A parade began this Dior circus, with the all-female, London-based circus troupe of avant-garde acrobats Mimbre - dressed in Dior leotards – injecting a light-handed feminist reference. With the odd circus master added to the mix in superbly cut tails and fracks worn with white chiffon shirts with sailors’ collars.
Chiuri’s whole team – backstage and front – were on song. Deftly handled make-up by Peter Philips gave the cast the tears of the clown, adding to their crystal skullcaps; a youthful indie cast that had a suitably self-assured air, in some smart casting by Michelle Lee. A giant tent by Bureau Betak hand-made for couture with its angled joists and golden velour seating; a minimalist soundtrack, featuring Steve Reich, setting exactly the right pace, courtesy of sound architect Michel Gaubert.
“Fashion is different today. Couture to me has to be about lightness, and dresses made with a certain attitude to reflect a lady’s character,” added Chiuri, who generously took her bow with the dance the 20 members of Mimbre.
At times, it was a tad too literal, but always with a sense of élan – like the multiple rib-cage dresses - but overall this was a majestic moment. Above all, the collection reached a marvelous crescendo of rather divine golden stripe pleated gowns and organza playsuits with sequined embroidery. There were many knowing looks and deep nods of appreciation at the finale from the toughest audience in fashion – the Paris couture. For this show was a substantial victory for Chiuri, a meeting of her rich imagination; a devoted atelier; a hard working team and a little bit of circus magic. Which is why the richest, and best dressed, women in the world will always dream of coming to the Paris couture. There is, quite literally, nothing else like it anywhere.
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