In May, Maria Grazia Chiuri took us into the wild for the Dior Cruise show, held on the open plains of the Calabasas hills in LA. The nature theme continued for this afternoon's couture show, set in a jungle in the gardens of the Musée des Invalides, designed by Italian artist Pietro Ruffo. Wooden sculptures of a lion, crocodiles, tortoise, giraffe, rhino – even a bird of prey suspended above the catwalk – were dotted around the tall grass and shrubbery in the star-shaped amphitheatre, transporting the audience (including Natalie Portman, Robert Pattinson, Celine Dion, Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Lawrence) around the globe, from the African savannahs to the depths of the Asian jungle.
But despite the exotic set and warm Paris weather, this couture collection (Chiuri's second since joining the house last summer) was surprisingly muted, with a focus on tailoring and masculine fabrics and colours. Dior regular, Brit model Ruth Bell, with a crop of newly bleached blonde hair, opened the show, wearing a belted grey jacket and ankle-length skirt with thick-soled lace-up shoes. This was followed by a series of looks that you might not expect from couture week – and certainly worlds away from the frothy, feminine fairytale gowns of Dior's last couture show in January. Though there were some satin gowns and stunning corset dresses, the opening passage was mostly made up of wrap jackets and wide-leg trousers, structured tailoring and even a shearling-lined, Aviator-esque leather flight suit that Amelia Earhart would be proud of. This was the luxury wardrobe of the glamorous globetrotter, featuring patchwork coats, elegant capes and even jackets adorned with maps, representing Christian Dior's love of travel and a yearning for discovery; discovering the world and oneself, emotion and growth.
The palette of grey and black transitioned into red and closed with earthy tones of brown, nudes and blush, as tulle, tiered skirts were unveiled alongside cinched velvet floor-length dresses and sumptuous gowns detailed with intricate floral embroidery. For the critics who have condemned Chiuri for her sporty, more casual and contemporary take on Dior womenswear, the second half of the show certainly offered the more conventional couture creations. As Dior celebrates its 70th anniversary, this collection – an ode to travel, mapping five continents – retraced the house's impressive expansion around the world.