At Couture Fashion Week, a controversial

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Courtesy of Dior, Schiaparelli, Giambattista Valli

In gray Paris, the spring couture collections opened with Dior’s understated ode to Josephine Baker, Schiaparelli’s extreme hourglass shapes and Giambattista Valli’s sweltering layers of tulle and chiffon. One way or another, they took care of the main area of ​​​​interest of fashion – the body – and Valli practically denied this.

Daniel Roseberry, Schiaparelli’s American designer, drew criticism online for mounting realistic-looking imitations of wild animals (a lion, a leopard, a wolf) on the front or shoulder of the dresses. Shalom Harlow obtained the leopard dress with the animal’s head with its mouth open, the work of artisans using embroidery and paint, positioned just below her own head. To some people, he suggested a big game trophy. Or maybe Harlow herself was the prize.

Of course, another way of looking at it is that Roseberry was pointing to the devotions, taboos, and conventions that pervade artistic expression, not that it favors blood sports. Fashion designers often get a bad rap for being callous beasts or just beasts, shock agents, as if they should be sitting in their workshops and knitting a sweater. The animal world has long been represented in fashion, and I mean not since Björk wore a stuffed swan at the Oscars, and the meanings have varied without implying cruelty or death, although that should also be a valid consideration if we’re talking about artistic freedom.

Photo: Courtesy of Schiaparelli

For the collection, Roseberry referenced “Inferno,” the first part of Dante’s 14th-century epic poem “Divine Comedy,” and plans to get to “Purgatory” and “Paradise” in later collections. For Dante, the leopard symbolized lust. Excitement hasn’t gone out of style.

“I like the idea that when people walk into a show, they don’t know what they’re going to see,” Roseberry said. In previous seasons, she has played with Elsa Schiaparelli’s familiar use of surrealism, which she borrowed from artists of her time. What I find so compelling about Roseberry’s new approach is that she largely cleaned up the surfaces of her and focused on structure and silhouette. Her tailoring line—a corseted coat, a white bolero embroidered with quivering white beads and worn with a skintight bustier and a pair of wide-legged black pants—is based on the torso-shaped bottle of Shocking perfume by Schiaparelli. She imagines using sex to sell a fancy scent.

Photo: Courtesy of Schiaparelli

Roseberry handled all of this skillfully and with intent, although some of her outfits, in which she constructed the bodice with a sort of shield made of fine molded wood or mother-of-pearl, made the girls look a bit heavy. It was nice to see him include softer styles, in particular a black chiffon column gown flecked with tiny black beading and two modest panels with light ruffles. The music for her show was fabulous: a commissioned work that she layered Diana Ross over Philip Glass.

Speaking of Baker, the American artist who became a sensation in 1920s Paris and later joined the French Resistance, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri said: “She completely changed the perception of her sex and of black women. . And she is fashion. She visited the haute couture workshops. She was a client.

Dior’s archive has photos of Baker attending at least one show at the house and, since 1951, donning a dress to perform in New York. Chiuri also asked artist Mickalene Thomas to create a set of portraits of well-known black women, including Lena Horne, Nina Simone, and Hazel Scott.

Photo: Courtesy of Dior

Given Baker’s cultural significance and the daring artist’s cabaret imagery in the 1920s, Chiuri’s expression, Monday at the Rodin Museum, might look like Josie Lite. But the designer didn’t rely on a one-dimensional view of Baker as a performer in spit curls and flapper dresses. Rather, he was distilling aspects of his life and times: a stark charcoal cape that referenced wartime service, silver and gold cloque dresses, or suits that captured the glitz of the 1920s and early 1930s. .

And Chiuri didn’t mince words. The best looks were suits with well-cut skirts that reached mid-calf, three-quarter length coats over a maxi dress or skirt, a gorgeous little black dress with satin lapels and a slight empire line, and a couple of cocktail dresses. sleeveless night. dresses in subdued gold or silver that fell loosely around the body and were tied at one side.

Photo: Courtesy of Dior

The clothes brushed against the body and she looked confident because of it. In her couture collection last July, Chiuri highlighted handicrafts as a kind of shirring and pleating. On this occasion, the fabrics were the protagonists. The silk velvets, the slightly wrinkled metallic silks that moved like gauze, the wools, everything was ultralight. As Chiuri said, “I like this kind of elegance and also comfort.”

Nothing in Valli’s many gowns seemed comfortable or playful, as the models dealt with voluminous skirts and trains or had their heels caught in the hems. The caramel-colored foam devoured most of the bodies. Big dresses have been Valli’s thing, but she has shown that she can do the other beautifully too.

Photo: Courtesy of Giambattista Valli

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