Looking at the shows that kicked off Paris’ haute couture week on Monday, you’d never know the world was the midst of the most serious financial turmoil since the Great Depression.
Designers here delivered opulent, flamboyant collections that, instead of reflecting the gloomy economic reality, transported the viewer into a world of beauty and fantasy.
“My job is to make women dream,” Christian Dior designer John Galliano said. “Of course I’m aware of the credit crunch, but it is not a creative crunch — not at the house of Dior, anyway.” Galliano sent out voluptuous skirt suits and sculptural evening gowns that took their inspiration from 17th-century Dutch painters like Johannes Vermeer.
French designer Stephane Rolland — a newcomer to the elite club of made-to-measure labels — also went big, with a collection that played on volume through the use of ingenious bustles and capes.
Giorgio Armani Prive, the celebrated Italian designer’s couture label, looked east for inspiration, delivering a distinctly Chinese-flavored collection.
Grand spectacles, the haute couture shows garner huge publicity for the handful of labels that still offer made-to-measure garments — which cost upward of $10,000 apiece.
Yesterday’s spring-summer presentations included shows by Chanel, Christian Lacroix and Givenchy.
Duchess lace, delicate blue-and-white porcelain and other Flemish fineries recovered their long-lost status as the ultimate luxury goods in Christian Dior’s majestic Vermeer-inspired show.
Designer Galliano said he was struck by the pose of subjects in paintings by the 17th-century Dutch master and his contemporaries — and by their palette of luminous blues, yellows and creamy whites.
Ever the magpie, Galliano plucked pieces from the bourgeois Flemish wardrobe — the oversize lace collars, the droopy puff sleeves, the fitted bodices — and adapted them to the labels’ hallmark skirt suit, which was created by Christian Dior in the 1940s.
The notes proclaimed the spring-summer collection “More Dior than Dior,” and perhaps it just was. Waspwaisted jackets with big sleeves and even bigger hips were paired with ultra-voluminous skirts that used bonework on the hems to retain their four-leaf clover shape.
Ruffles abounded, draped over jacket necklines, bouncing off the seat and dripping down hemlines. The skirt of one slate blue suit was entirely covered in looped ruffles. Indigo flowers on the inside of another skirt — in ecru — made the garment look like a Flemish porcelain bowl turned upside-down.
Burlesque star Dita von Teese said she there was “something about the suit looks I really love.”
“It was beautiful … all the very cinched waists and big crinolines and all the beading,’’ said Von Teese, a frequent guest at Paris couture shows.
Other A-list guests at Monday’s show included TV star Mischa Barton, rapper Kanye West, Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard — the current face of the Lady Dior bag line — and former French first lady Bernadette Chirac.
Rolland cited Constantin Brancusi as an inspiration for the collection, and the influence of the Romanian-born sculptor was clear in the show’s big, bold volumes and harmonious lines.
A stiff cone-shape panel emerged from the bust of a strapless shift dress and, curling ingeniously around itself, attached to the hemline.