Highlights From Paris Couture Fall/Winter 2021 Day 1: Dior, Iris Van Herpen, Schiaparelli
As if holding a gilded mirror up to the lifting of lockdowns all across Europe, the most important week in the fashion calendar has come—and its timing cannot get any perfect.
While various storied fashion houses still opt for a digital and cinematic approach to presenting their latest creations—with intimate and socially distanced salon viewings that follow––this season also marks the triumphant and long-awaited return of equally socially distanced physical fashion shows.
Between the death-defying feats of fashion that seem to soar and keep us spellbound at Iris van Herpen, and Christian Dior’s great catwalk comeback in three seasons; along with Schiaparelli’s best showing yet; Tatler Singapore contextualises some of the stellar sartorial successes that money can buy you on the first day of Paris Couture Week Fall/Winter 2021.
Iris Van Herpen
Putting the ‘high’ in ‘fashion’, and the ‘extra’ in ‘terrestrial’ is the Iris van Herpen couture fall/winter 2021 collection entitled Earthwise. Pushing more than just physical and sartorial boundaries, the Dutch designer paints us an image of dawn breaking on a distant planet very much like ours in her film; as otherworldly beings clad in van Herpen’s signature symmetrical dresses are perched atop mountain peaks to worship the sun and exalt what looks to be their higher power: Freedom. Considering how we have all been cooped up and grounded for almost two years now, the designer’s liberated new world looks incredibly appealing in the face of our new normal.
And, oh, to flutter through life like printed silk dancing in the headwinds, van Herpen also collaborated with the award winning world champion French female skydiver, Domitille Kiger, this season. Taking audiences on an adrenalin inducing free fall into the final frontiers of fashion, the collection is a feminine rhapsody in blue, glacial white and boasts kinetic armoury that seem to take a life of its own. But it is Tibetan model, Tsunaina, that truly steals the show in her sculptural exoskeleton made of, we are proud to say, recycled plastic; as she lends her haunting vocals to what sounds like an alien aria. Which begs the question, could this film also be the designer’s couture commentary on habitat and humanity?
In not one, but two showings due to social distancing and a sublime series of promotional films, the Christian Dior couture fall/winter 2021 show is a style spectacle unlike any other. Imbuing each of the 75 exits with the kind of magic and marvel that only 30 Avenue Montaigne can instil through the deft mind and hands of Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, the Musée Rodin, where the show is held, is transformed to a Xanadu of the iconic fashion house’s greatest hits. An unapologetic and welcomed reclamation of the values of haute couture, the collection is a love letter to sensuality, touch and the feminine form—all set against an impressive backdrop of precious woven tapestries by French artist Eva Jospin that line the walls.
There is so much to unravel in the collection. As ardent fans, we are quickly reduced to kids in a candy store. And as if it is the very winter morning of 1947 that forever altered the course of fashion history, Grazia Chiuri’s take on the bar jacket that made Dior famous takes on a different kind of sombre delicacy this season that, dare we say, properly redefines the New Look for the new normal. Another show stopper is also the closing look—that awaits one very lucky bride—of a model swathed in a mist of exquisite hand-stitched feather and floral appliqués. We cannot help but think that Monsieur Dior who so famously said, “After women, flowers are the most lovely thing that God has given the world”, would have really wanted this today.
In the immortal words of the late Elsa Schiaparelli, “In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous”. And we can always count on one of fashion’s favourite Americans in Paris to extol perhaps what is the most famous virtue of Schiaparelli: Shock. Oh, what we would give to be at Place Vendôme today to witness Daniel Roseberry’s brilliant use of 70 metres of majestic white taffeta that make up the final wedding gown—the likes of which we have not seen since the royal wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles; also, the kind of drama and extravagance that is unfortunately so absent in modern nuptials.
And such is the power of the Texan native. His uncanny ability to continually breathe new life into the couture house by marrying luxury with levity—all with his signature aplomb. Part Spanish matador, part Dalí tribute, the collection is like a Surrealist painting come to life. Today’s treasure trove of gilt and organic forms echo even Charles James of his home country and are only gaudy to the untrained eye. Roseberry’s mastery of technicality and construction makes him the perfect successor to preserve the enduring legacy of the house’s daring and visionary namesake. This is his best show yet.