21-Jun, 20:49

09:29, February 28 194 0

2018-02-28 09:29:07
Fashion Review: Can You Wear Dior to the Demonstration?

PARIS — When she began planning her fall 2018 collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s artistic director for women’s wear, could not have known that in the days before her show, students from a Florida school would transform the debate on gun control in the United States, calling time on the status quo and reframing the national dialogue.

She could not have anticipated that six teenagers would be running for governor in Kansas on different platforms of change.

All she knew, she said in a preview, was that 50 years ago students in France took to the streets to make their voices heard, and it became a social and political turning point. The world then was at an inflexion point, as was fashion, and she thought, maybe, we were at a similar place today. She’d pay homage to it on her runway.

Sometimes reality has a way of catching up with imagination in ways you’d never have predicted.

And it cast a different light — both brighter and more nuanced — over the Dior show, with its walls (and floor) papered with torn magazine covers from the late ‘60s collaged with slogans, including “women’s rights are human rights” and “I am a woman” and “miniskirts forever,” one that gave the show a resonance it might not have otherwise had, and also revealed its shortcomings.

Taking its cue from classic 1960s counterculture, the collection began with swinging collegiate plaid jackets (Ms. Chiuri has happily moved beyond the Bar) over T-shirts and matching kilts, sometimes created via a grid of trompe l’oeil lace appliqués. There were perfectly pieced patchworks of archival prints and denim; long leather trench coats and short shearlings; friendship-bracelet dresses in woven macramé and sheer flower-child frocks atop crocheted bikini tops — all of it merchandised to the hilt with sunglasses and berets and bags and chains, and most of it branded.

In many ways, this was the best ready-to-wear collection Ms. Chiuri has produced: more relaxed, less desperately seeking millennials, despite the obvious youth connection. Yet it also raised some difficult questions. Luxury has always had a yen for co-opting the uniforms of the revolution, but that doesn’t make the contrast between implicit value systems any less extreme — or uncomfortable. Especially when the uniforms you are co-opting were once used to protest the capitalist system (among other things).

The show opened with some tailored culottes and a crafty sweater bearing a message that Ms. Chiuri had found on a scarf in the Dior archives, originally released in 1967: “C’est non, non et non” (It’s no, no and no).

“I grew with the idea it’s not nice to say ‘no’,” she said in the preview. “But I think this new generation is O.K. saying no, and that’s a good sign.” It was a potent connection between then and #MeToo, except the back of the sweater also bore a message: “J’adior.” Suddenly a statement of self-actualization had been turned into something like a … perfume ad? Which pretty much said it all. Or undermined it, depending on how you look at the situation.

This is a time of change and Ms. Chiuri has that right. But do the change agents of today really want to wear the garb of yesterday, no matter how gorgeously redone? Don’t they deserve a, well, new look?

John Galliano has created one at Maison Margiela, ripping up the old rules, de- and reconstructing basics in style. Puffer sleeves were collaged onto navy macs; cable-knit minidresses and fringe trapped under iridescent nylon; and tweed hung with the seamed skeleton of a leather jacket. Sheer vinyl hoods topped most looks and everything was grounded by enormous tanks of sneakers (officially known as the Security Margiela Sneaker, or S.M.S.).

It was weird and compulsively interesting, dystopian and optimistic, with its own internal energy and logic. Certainly the collection made more sense than the grab bag of separates at Lanvin, where in his second season Olivier Lapidus still seems mired in a Great Aunt May-on-the-cruise-ship past.

Zip-trimmed moto tops in gold duchess satin were paired with purple stirrup pants; peach silk nightie dresses came with jewel-encrusted panels; and a transparent degradé lozenge-like plastic jacket topped a hooded turtleneck (Hoods are turning into a thing).

Sneakers also showed up — as knee-high lace-ups — but instead of making the gowns look modern, which was presumably the intent, they made the models look squat.

The house has just been sold to Fosun, the Chinese conglomerate, and famously has been through a period of extreme turmoil, so perhaps the incongruity is understandable. It’s hard to find your sea legs when you are effectively fighting for your life under the black cloud of potential bankruptcy. And there was some promise in a few sheer, black styles pleated on the bias, even if it did not really go anywhere. Hopefully the new owners will invest the time and support needed to change course.

After all, once upon a time Lanvin represented a kind of platonic ideal of French dressing, a crown that Simon Porte Jacquemus, part of the new guard of designers in the city (and one often mentioned as a contender for the various big brand jobs that come up), is increasingly attempting to claim for his own. He’s got a way to go. But with an aesthetic bordered on one side by the Croisette and, this season, on the other by the souk, Mr. Porte Jacquemus has become a dab hand at a streamlined sensuality that mixes clinging thin knits with cowl-draped jerseys, caftan jumpsuits and a whole lot of leg. Forget slits; his skirts have cutouts to accommodate entire limbs.

Though no one has embraced the leg to quite the same extent as Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, where it is practically a platform unto itself.

In a giant black box speckled inside and out with hundreds of spotlights, under the looming presence of the Eiffel Tower, he etched an ode to the long line and the longer stride in ebony splashed with sparks of silver, built on a base of stacked slouchy ankle boots and leather microshorts and skirts.

With them came jackets and shirts in a dazzling array of permutations: in velvets and sheer voile, with tassels and tank tops; peasant-draped, fringed and fur-trimmed. It looked louche and after dark, and the finale of elaborately beaded big-shouldered floral 1980s minigowns was, in a champagne-fueled Les Bains Douches way. But it was also a Trojan horse.

Toss the shorts (they aren’t serious), replace them with the skinny jeans from the men’s collection (also shown, with similar tops and more practical bottoms), and the whole would emerge in the light of day with an entirely different kind of propulsive force.

From the bottom, you transform the top. It’s a metaphor of a different kind.