As the men's shows concluded in Paris yesterday evening, today marks the first day of Haute Couture, the most luxurious collections to be showcased on the fashion calendar. Always a demonstration of the finest craftsmanship and handiwork of les petites mains (the teams who painstakingly bring couture creations to life), this season's schedule is particularly notable as Clare Waight Keller makes her Givenchy couture debut while Azzedine Alaïa's absence, having made a surprise return to the calendar in 2017 after a six-year hiatus, is a reminder of the couturier's untimely death last November.
But before Waight Keller's first couture collection at Givenchy and the latest offerings from Chanel, Margiela, Elie Saab et al, came Dior and Maria Grazia Chiuri this afternoon. The Musée Rodin was transformed into a giant black and white mirrored checkerboard – a common feature in Dalí's paintings, hinting at the Surrealist theme of the show to come. Inside the venue, giant drapes hung across the walls, while mysterious cages and Surrealist white body parts were suspended over the graphic floor. Show notes revealed that Chiuri was particularly inspired by the female-focused work of Argentinian Surrealist artist Leonor Fini, who worked with Christian Dior himself in the 1930s. A quote from Fini in the notes, encapsulated the collection's theme succinctly: “Only the inevitable theatricality of my life interests me.”
As is now Maria Grazia Chiuri's tradition, model Ruth Bell opened the Dior show, wearing a sheer black blouse tucked into a high-waisted symmetric skirt, finished off with delicate fishnets and peep-toe gold sandals. The opening look was followed by elegant domino-print coat dresses in both black and white, a new twist on the polka dot prints that permeated the SS18 Dior collection. As the surroundings suggested, this was a collection inspired by Surrealism and optical illusions, from Op Art black and white dresses and a trompe-l'œil sequinned 'nude' dress to the magical headdresses, created by Stephen Jones.
Featuring a heavily monochrome palette, the collection consisted of caged corsets, lattice dresses, and sharp suits with a skinny silhouette, while intricate feathered butterflies adorned floor-length gowns. Rare moments of colour came in the form of a peacock-esque green plumed frock and a striking scarlet off-the-shoulder dress. An intricately detailed white cape dress adorned with flowers and feathers was a real signifier of the unparalleled skill of the couture seamstresses.
Willow Smith, Emily Blunt, Naomi Campbell, Alexa Chung, Jhené Aiko and Big Sean sat front row at the show as the models weaved around the black and white grid space. Though the real spectacle of some couture shows may have been absent, with this muted, elegant collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri proved that despite hobbling out to take her bow on crutches, following a Christmas injury, she's really coming into her stride at Dior.