The Paris Fashion Week is going on despite hit by the coronavirus, although the audience may have been cut down to one-fifth of the usual size, Christian Dior built a cathedral for their fashion show. 18 light-box installations, each seven metres tall, brought the intense kaleidoscopic glory of Gothic stained-glass windows flooding into the much blacked-out tent in the Tuileries garden.
This was an event of grandeur in an industry that has been battled by seismic economic and social forces. Quarantine regulation globally has affected Paris fashion week from being a global event to a domestic show, with only a few non-French people in attendance.
Only 350 people attended the Christian Dior show, instead of the normal 1750 attendees that register their presence in the past. Comme des Garçons and other high-profile Japanese brands who have been based in Paris for a long time have left the city to attend shows in Tokyo next month.
The Paris Fashion Show has proven that watching a live-streamed show can never be compared to being present in the room where it’s happening. An Extinction Rebellion protestor briefly gatecrashed the catwalk brandishing a sign reading “We Are All Fashion Victims” – but her cameo role on the catwalk was seen only by those in the room as it wasn’t picked by the camera.
Under its creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, Christian Dior has done beautifully well and has been the rising star of French top fashion in recent years. But the pandemic has hit so hard across the industry, but moving to digital presents Dior with an opportunity to close the gap on its historic rivals Chanel, who is still unwilling to embrace the online retail change even while stores were closed.
Dior’ show was shown on TikTok, but a user of the video-sharing app, accustomed to a diet of hooky, lip sync-friendly pop, would likely have been a little taken aback by the live soundtrack to this show, which consisted of 12 a capella female voices singing 19th-century Corsican mourning hymns.
In contrast to last week’s Milan shows, which presented a strikingly optimistic view of 2021, with catwalks full of party dresses and minibreak-friendly hot pants, the first event of Paris fashion week struck a sombre mood, fit for “a depressing moment,” as Chiuri put it in a Zoom interview after the show.
The cathedral set “celebrates a space in which we can stop and think”, she said. The windows were created by artist Lucia Marcucci, collaging fragments of Giotto and Manet paintings with magazine images and newspaper headlines.
“Our relationship with clothes has completely changed over the past months because we have more private life and less public life,” the designer noted. For now, she has put the famous Dior wasp-waisted “bar silhouette” aside in favour of a soft kimono style wrap jacket.
The long, layered silhouette, which Chiuri has made a daywear staple in the wardrobe of women worldwide, came in soft linens and cotton. There were none of the slogan T-shirts that have become a modern Dior staple, this season – presumably because if the wearer is at home, there’s no one to see them. Chiuri herself took her catwalk bow in simple black separates and white trainers.