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Georgie’s Review: Paris Couture Digital, Day 1

Tue 7 Jul

How do you distil the fantasy and grandeur of Haute Couture into a film or digital presentation? Can the phenomenal sets, the visual feast, the perfumes, the decadent minutia be felt through a screen? As Couture week begins for the first time online, we shall see how the couturiers present their marvellous macro world in micro; a world, that until now, was predominantly a private one.

Opening the week, as is usual for the shows in Paris, was Schiaparelli, whose film of creative director Daniel Roseberry was a sweet and somewhat honest insight into the creative workings of a head of house during lockdown. Previous Schiaparelli shows, namely A/W 19 Roseberry’s debut, have had similar intros – little moments of voyeurism as we watch how the collection came to Roseberry’s mind. Roseberry was filmed illustrating the couture looks sat in a New York park, marooned in the city, like many, due to COVID-19. While the film lacked physical garments, it was pleasing to see Roseberry at work, scrawling dramatic asymmetric sleeves, whimsical surrealist-inspired accessories, and hints of shocking Schiaparelli pink. A portion of these looks will be brought to life and sent on to clients once Roseberry can return to Paris, intriguingly, us as viewers may never see the final products.

Indeed, always an intrigue on the schedule is designer Iris van Herpen. Her shows are often immersive, transporting the viewer to another world for their duration. Not unfamiliar with the medium of fashion film, Van Herpen showed a single look via her film ‘Transmotion’, concentrating notions of growth and regeneration into one undulating organza piece. Modelled by Dutch actress Carice van Houten, (who you may recognise as Melisandre from Game of Thrones) the film and garment are an ode to Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. Escher’s graphic works are explicitly referenced, with a nod to his graphic line and mezzatint eye the standouts. Timely and in keeping with Van Herpen’s signature exquisite eye for detail and craft, this film was a good start to the week.

Perhaps the most 360-degree on the schedule today was that of Dior. Maria Grazia Chiuri had cleverly paid homage to the Théâtre de la mode with a film and a lookbook. An event that began in 1944 to promote French couture, Théâtre de la mode saw couturiers dispatch miniatures of their designs in trunks around the world, so that customers could see the workmanship up close. This is exactly what Grazia Chiuri will be doing for her clients this season, tailoring trunks to each client and sending them direct to their door. A delightful idea and one that truly highlights (perhaps more so than usual) the skill of the petites mains. Executing almost 40 miniature looks is a triumph. However, the film that presented such delicate designs was not. With Lee Miller and Dora Maar as references and a director such as Matteo Garrone, one expected a dark, twisted and surreal cinematic experience. ‘Le Mythe Dior’, with a seriously disappointing lack of diversity, fell flat. The film saw miniatures delivered to mystical mermaids, wood nymphs and otherworldly red-haired sirens but unfortunately the film’s awkwardness and lack of awareness meant the magic was lost.

Two more of note, Giambattista Valli, who showed a quintessential film presentation that highlighted his wonderful cascading frou and tulle, and Olivier Theyskens’ debut at Azzaro Couture, who presented an infectious film akin to an 80s music video. Both engaging, optimistic and true to their brand ethos. Even when viewing from the comfort of one’s own home, the vivacious energy of couture today was certainly felt. Thus far, couture houses are showing their identity, craft and tenacity in such climes but we’re still not quite transported into the runway halls of Haute Couture.