Paris is burning: masses of people on the streets, impromptu gatherings here and there, a palpable desire to be out and about, and have as much fun as possible, forgetting the pandemic as fast as possible. That’s the air du temps. But at the haute couture week which started here on Monday, the sense of escapism was laced with a heavier side.
Despite the delicacy of “Chambre de Soie,” the massive embroidered art piece conceived by Eva Jospin and executed by expert hands in India, which served as the show’s backdrop, somberness was the giveaway at Dior, and not just for the abundance of greys and neutrals, nor the stompy brogues. The weight and abundance of wooly tweed did plenty of talking, communicating a sense of thoughtful heaviness. A die-hard believer in the craft of making things, Maria Grazia Chiuri focused on daywear and the art of weaving and looming, celebrating fabric as, well, the essential medium of fashion. In doing so, she put the unsung heroes of fashion-making — the fabric suppliers hard hit by the pandemic — in the spotlight. It was a commendable idea, but the collection somehow showed creative fatigue, lacking the sense of elation we all collectively crave and the frivolous grandeur for which Dior is known.
A balance of somberness and frivolity leaned towards the lighter side at Chanel, where Virginie Viard delivered a very Chanel collection of tweed jackets, floaty dresses and bourgeois chic for jolie mademoiselles with braided mohawks and large inheritances. Since Viard landed in the driving seat, Chanel has perhaps lost some of the fashionable aura of its past, but gained a feminine pragmatism that is completely Viard’s own. That pragmatism, reflected in clothes designed to be worn, made for an honest outing in the enchanted setting of the Palais Galliera that felt both true to the spirit of the house and close to the spirit of the times. Chanel deserves more design personality, but this was one of Viard’s best collections.
Shiny lightness was the theme at Armani Privé, where Mr. Armani explored iridescence this way and that, counting on the magnificent rooms of the wrought out palais which houses the Italian Embassy, as the ideal backdrop. In an ode to the timelessness of couture, Armani went as far as showing again some of the creations that he had already presented in January, and it was a smart move that conveyed a sense of rebirth in the name of continuity.
Elsewhere, the mood was liberated, excessive and escapist. For Giambattista Valli, this meant upping the ante on his signature tulle meringues, cutting them leaner in order to make the ever-hedonist Valli girls ready for haute partying at underground parties as well as in enchanted gardens. But this was more or less business as usual for Valli — an alternation of sculptural and flou with massive hairdos — with the welcomed addition of a few men’s pieces: suits and capes worthy of Udo Kier in Andy Warhol’s Dracula.
The prize for excess, however, goes to Daniel Roseberry, who season after season keeps molding the house of Schiaparelli into a temple of augmented everything: larger than life decorations and bijoux, humongous draping, towering platforms and weighty surrealisms. This season Roseberry was feeling feisty and over-decorative, complete with Claude Lalanne-worthy breastplates and evident references to the work of Gaultier, Lacroix and a bit of Yves Saint Laurent. It was a lot, probably too much, and the results at times felt costumey, but Roseberry has a personal signature that hits the show-off habits of the TikTok transgeneration. There is a boldness to it that verges on the kitsch, but Roseberry deserves kudos.
Editor’s Note: This article was revised on 9th July 2021. An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Claude Lalanne as Olivier Lalanne.