The Paris Spring 2020 Haute Couture collections opened with designers Maria Grazia-Chiuri of Dior Haute Couture, Iris Van Herpen and Daniel Roseberry of Schiaparelli each honoring women through time.
Dior Haute Couture
What if women ruled the world? This popular hypothesis posed at the Dior Haute Couture via one of the many tapestries lining the runway should not come as a surprise as its been Maria Grazia Chiuri’s concept to ponder since taking the reins, chez Dior. On this occasion she engaged the art of Judy Chicago, the famous feminist artist, to design the runway as an exhibit that will be open to the public post-show from January 21st through 26th. Entitled, The Female Divine the runway-set-turned-exhibit-space (another sustainability belt notch for Dior!) was housed in a round womb-like tent and will feature a purple carpet dotted with flowers that grow in number and density along the way and displays 21 banners in both English and French. The banners, embroidered in India at an embroidery school to teach women the currently male-dominated Indian skill, propose all sorts of “nutty” ideas about the world today such as the question of who rules and subsequent thoughts to come after. Would there be violence? Owned property? Would god be female? Would parenting be equal and heck even, the age-old debate, would men and women be equal?
It was a sight to behold on a glorious clear winter’s day in Paris on the grounds of Musée Rodin with its antiquities. Grazia-Chiuri looked at one particular garment from antiquity, the peplos of Ancient Greece which is defined by Google as “a rich outer robe or shawl worn by women in ancient Greece, hanging in loose folds and sometimes drawn over the head.”
Mainly Grazia-Chiuri kept the folds of the robes and shawls off the head so that they really appeared as capes and cape-sleeves in the collection full of gold, bronze and silver via fabrics, beading and of course embroideries. Several looks swished with fringe like a female gladiator; one-shoulder gowns – naturally preferred by the Amazonian female who cut off one breast for better arrow aim – draped and twisted in chiffon that billowed down the backs; braided cords crossed the body anchored by chiffon that was twisted to expose slashes of skin. Braided hair plaits became crowns on the model’s heads furthering their goddess-nature.
Certainly, goddesses of the Red Carpet will aim their arrows at this collection. Several sinuous draped white gowns are probably being packed up as we speak and sent to Los Angeles for awards season. Ditto for the metallic light jade plissé pleated gown with a pleated skirt.
But as this was a world where women may rule, the creative director proposed what the Dior Haute Couture suit should look like in this context as wouldn’t women want to wear the proverbial pants while visibly running the show? The famous bar jacket was given the drape and twist treatment with an abundance of evening suits in the metallic hues. Empowering for sure, the mother-of-the-bride set. And refreshing to see Couture made for the people that can afford it. At 80 and sporting purple locks, Judy Chicago was spotted in the front row rocking a pantsuit herself.
One generally expects that it helps to have a science, technology, engineering and fine arts degree to fully comprehend just what goes into a collection from Iris Van Herpen. After witnessing her latest Haute Couture collection called Sensory Seas one can add marine biologist to the line-up of enlightenment required to grasp her otherworldly and lyrical collections.
Collaboration is the genesis of an Iris Van Herpen collection and this one involved a science visionary albeit a dead one. She looked to the acclaimed scientific illustrations by Nobel-Prize winning Spanish neuroanatomist Ramón y Cabal who studied the workings of the nervous system. With this in mind she dove into the deep dark sea (which sort of explained the plain dark box room inside the Victorian-era styled Cirque d’Hiver) and looked at the life stages of the Hydrozoa whose vaporous, ethereal movements give them a shape-shifter essence. Van Herpen told reporters backstage “I looked at how both communicate, and I realized that both worlds are really unexplored. We hardly know anything about the deep inside of our bodies and the deep dark sea. I really wanted to bring these micro and macro ideas together.”
The clothes – which entered the runway through light wave sculptures resembling DNA strands by Paul Friedlander – were meant to recreate this wafting movement even when not worn. “I come from dance and it’s been a long journey, but I try to bring transformation and life into my work. The ultimate dream is to bring the materials and fabrics closer to that living dream.” Black chiffon streamers jut out of ‘tubes’ on a white dress similar to a clamshell; a blue gown flows like waves; an all-white look resembles accordion paper décor hearts stacked on one another. The last look though sea-life and nervous system inspired resembled a multi-wing butterfly.
As Van Herpen is a pioneer in 3D in relationship to garment creation, all sorts of techniques and words like KERN laser-cutting, heat-bonding, halos, digital terms and programs like PetG and Rhino are tossed about when describing the clothes which is pretty much describing the process to make them. She is quite fond of a singular silicone thread that is printed and fabrics creating sculpted shapes that are likely impossible to create via traditional Haute Couture methods.
While her designs which are considered ‘fantasy’ maybe for a specific type and not likely to arrive in a mall nearby soon, Van Herpen is a name in fashion everyone should know. When we all start creating 3D-printed clothes at home her innovation in this new technology, it will have people consider her couture designs akin to that of Henry Ford to the automobile, both pioneers at the start of life-changing innovation.
Double Fantasy was the name of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s last album before he was tragically killed in New York City in 1980, a good 6 or 7 years before Schiaparelli’s 30-something Daniel Roseberry was born. It just happens to also be the name of the latter’s second Haute Couture collection for the Surrealist-inspired house which the American couturier (almost an oxymoron) took over as the Creative Director of in April 2019.
Backstage Roseberry told reporters’ he was definitely thinking about addressing Haute Couture’s needs for younger women. To wit English actress Cynthia Ervo, nominated for her role in Harriet, just donned a hot pink strapless gown with voluminous trailing skirt marked by swooping cloud-like wafts of material that are Roseberry’s design tour de force at the SAG awards. Speaking to reporters backstage Roseberry shed a light on his vision for the house. “Obviously being American I come at it with a different perspective, so I am leaning into that; I want it to be young, easy and youthful.”
According to show notes, the designer had two female personas in mind – the Surrealist and the Seductress. “I am pushing things to the extremes of reality and fantasy and cutting out everything in between,” said Roseberry defining the Schiaparelli woman further in this second collection that is according to the designer, “really easy, sexy and not precious and stuffy.” In that sense, he nailed it.
To the latter, he offered plenty of louche pants suits, draped silks that looked especially appealing for cocktail and day and a nod to Alber Elbaz’s years at Lanvin (to be fair, they both drew upon the 1930s) and even a trench-coat style gown. This side was Couture on the go.
The seductress had gobs of eye candy for more Red Carpet and galas to come. More gravity-defying air puffs which are big and subtle at the same time; slinky draped barely there dress inserted with faux skin (obviously this one-of-a-kind piece will be altered to match the buyer’s skin tone), shocking royal blue beaded gown with sheer shoulder netting and a colorful finale section with billowing cape and swathes of fabrics that could also do a step and repeat in the tropics, say Jamaica.
Peppered throughout was the established house code bijoux that has been such a focus for the brand – eye and eyelash motifs, S’s with dripping pearls, heart and lock trinkets and a gaggle of gemstones in pendant settings – were used to adorn this new Schiaparelli with an old Surrealist touch by placing the jewelry in unexpected places such as directly on the skin. The designer alluded to the bijoux “just getting started.” Double Fantasy may have been John Lennon’s final act, but for Schiaparelli with Roseberry in charge, this Double Fantasy will be (Just Like) Starting Over.