Two of fashion’s biggest hitters showed in Paris on Tuesday – Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent (or Dior and Saint Laurent as we should call them, forenames are so passé). Their respective visions were about as different from each other as it’s possible to get.
For Kering-owned Saint Laurent under Anthony vaccarello, it was all about sexy extremes (and scarily skinny models). But at LVMH-owned Dior, by contrast, Maria Grazia Chiuri went for a less headline-grabbing but hugely commercial concept that edged the label’s evolution forward.
It also sparked a debate among some fashion commentators about the male designer vs female designer issue, with the idea being that men know little about dressing women because they’re, well, men.
That’s perhaps unfair to a raft of really good male designers. Let’s face it, Chiuri’s ex-partner at Valentino Pierpaolo Piccioli could hardly be accused of overdoing it on the sleaze front. It’s not XY chromosomes that make some male designers turn out leather minis, nipple flashing tops and spiky heels season after season. Vaccarello just happens to be one who’s over-fond of that kind of look.
So, back to Maria Grazia. The fashion press made much of this May being the 50th anniversary of the student protests in Paris and the Dior designer having seen an exhibition about them that fed into her ongoing runway sloganeering. It seems the exhibition also included a picture of women protesting outside Dior at the time because of the label’s lack of miniskirts.
While student protest vs fashionista protest may seem like a shift from the sublime to the ridiculous, as a starting point for fashion collection inspiration, it’s gold-dust.
It all came together in an AW18 collection that was a mix of protest, prettiness and power. It left behind the schoolgirl looks of the previous outing with hardly any cute minis on show. But it didn’t reject the 1960s altogether, replacing the little dresses that could have been worn by Jane Birkin in Blow Up, with styles that were more, Jane Birkin in the Je t’aime promotional movie.
The Dior signature berets developed peaks this time, resembling the workers’ caps that student protestors loved in the late 60s, while ‘humble’ materials such as patchwork also figured strongly.
Late 60s Paris college styles also put in an appearance as knee-length easy skirts were teamed with blazers and graphic tees, while ultra-relaxed pantsuits felt gently retro (but very wearable now).
The 70s dress (slim cut bodice with more fluid skirt) offered a relaxed option for anyone seeking a little more formality, while embroidered and appliqué sheers were strong choices for anyone seeking special occasion dresses without the discomfort that come with true red carpet looks.
Chiuri paid little attention to AW18’s fondness for power/neon brights with her colour palette more focused on those tones she loves – denim blues, neutrals, soft-tone brights and black and white, plus silver.
But she tapped into the season’s love of fuzzy fur textures and capes with roomy outerwear that should earn a place in many wardrobes for years to come.