18-Oct, 02:26

05:38, January 24 243 0

2017-01-24 05:38:14
Fashion Review: During Couture, Mazes, Mirrors and Movie Magic at Chanel and Dior

PARIS — On Monday, just after lunch, in a mirrored box at the end of the gardens behind the Musée Rodin, Dior built a leafy labyrinth. It was walled in ivy, and at the center stood an old tree hung with jewels and other memento mori. On the ground, a carpet of moss absorbed all sound. The air was greenhouse hot. Little spiders and flies landed on guests like Kirsten Dunst and Diane Kruger, and nestled into clients’ furs. They brushed them off.

On Tuesday, not long past breakfast, in the cavernous glass-ceilinged environs of the Grand Palais, Chanel built an intimate oval Art Deco salon a la 31 Rue Cambon, the better to frame an endlessly refracted runway in the round. Lined and carpeted in myriad faceted mirrors, it reflected an army of clients (plus G-Dragon) clad in Chanel bouclé with Chanel bags slung over their shoulders and Chanel spectator booties on their feet perched on white suede sofas, circular tables at their sides, eight glass vases of perfectly furled calla lilies en face.

In between these events, Giambattista Valli took over a suite of rooms in the Archives Nationales, the repository of French history, where Marie Antoinette’s letters — and the records of her dress fabrics — are kept, among other things. Outside the building, members of the CGT (the Confédération générale du travail, or labor union) handed out pamphlets protesting its use as “a vulgar theater of business.” Inside, Mr. Valli showed a let-them-eat-cake series of silk gazar and taffeta dresses with extravagantly ruffled torsos cut to mid-thigh in the front and billowing into airy trains at the back; flat-packed 1960s satin minidresses dripping in diamanté; and his signature frothing seas of tulle.

Such is the everyday of the couture, a world that promises fantasy come to life. At its essence, that means being comfortable in your own clothes. What is more dreamy than a garment made to your unique specifications, after all? But because that’s awfully hard to appreciate from the outside, it ofttimes comes couched in the trappings of a Baz Luhrmann movie. In case, you know, you somehow miss the point.

So there, for example, was Christian Dior, and the debut couture collection of Maria Grazia Chiuri, which did not have an official name but might as well have been called “A Midsummer’s Night Masked Ball.” Or perhaps “Shakespeare sur l’herbe.”

Think of black or white Bar jackets (every designer who comes to Dior has to wrestle with the Bar) with a looser sway; capes swishing from shoulders; pleated culottes replacing strict trousers. And think of a plethora of point d’esprit and lace and mousseline dresses made for Titania and her court.

Ms. Chiuri conjured up 40 or so (give or take a few) fairy frocks in the same silhouette — a full, bell-like skirt and tiny, spaghetti-strap top — most with headpieces atop (feathers and flower crowns and a unicorn horn), all in different fabrications. One had hundreds of tiny pleats on the bodice. One was covered in a garden of blooms, the petals made from tinted feathers. One had poppies trapped beneath the tulle. One was quilted crimson satin. One was gold lamé under a scrim of black. You get the idea.

It cast a coherent spell, especially compared with the designer’s debut ready-to-wear collection, and marked a small shift away from her Italian roots (and her former employer, Valentino). The decorative references were more Petit Trianon than Renaissance, and relentlessly romantic as the clothes were, they had a simplicity of shape that kept them grounded. Those girls didn’t mind some dirt on their hems.

The women starring in Chanel’s “Sputnik Salon Society,” however, would have raised a perfectly arched eyebrow at the idea. Erté was in the air, and an attenuated line was on the runway, thanks to a slightly raised waistline — not quite empire, not quite natural, belted at the lower ribs — and, for day, a squared-off shoulder on a bouclé jacket atop a straight skirt, hitting just above the knee and shot through with a touch of shine and a whisper of the space age to keep it current. Karl Lagerfeld, the designer, called it a spoon silhouette, but the utensil that came to mind was sterling.

For evening, there was an ivory satin coatdress slinking along with a worldly wink; starry slips encrusted in crystals and silver sequins with plumes of white feathers at the hem; and frilled bubble skirts with an ovoid curve. Necklines plunged, shades were cool, pumps were high and the mood was soignée; more sophisticated than sweet, highly controlled. Fly me to the moon.

It might have been 10:30 a.m. and so cold that fingers were getting stiff, but in this alternate dimension it was time for caviar and Champagne.