PARIS — A designer has to have a certain amount of daring to not just call a fashion show “The Next Era,” but to use the phrase and splash on tank tops, leather motorcycle racing gloves and opera-length boots.
Especially in a time like the present, when questions about the end of an era are paramount and fear of what’s to come have taken on a loaded meaning.
But at Dior, title and splash Maria Grazia Chiuri did. With surprisingly effective results (slogan tees aside).
She borrowed the phrase, she said in a preview, from Italian artist Mariella Bettineschi — the latest in the designer’s line of female changemakers — and a series of portraits of Mrs. Bettineschi of the same name depicting women who have appropriated the work of ancient masters and recreated: the protagonists of their own stories displayed and given two pairs of eyes.
After all, that’s what designers like Ms. Chiuri have to do every time they take the helm of a heritage house: go back to the past and reinvent it every time, with a new point of view.
So multiple portraits of Ms. Bettineschi were hung in the exhibition space to literally frame the point, while Ms. Chiuri offered her own re-engineering of history: Dior classics, infused with or covered in wearable technology.
Working with an Italian company, D-Air Lab, which specializes in protective clothing for Arctic explorers and extreme athletes (the first look in the collection was a black bodysuit covered in vein-like tubes that mimicked the company’s temperature-regulating “undersuit”), Ms. Chiuri pulled out the internal safety padding to create a strap-on corset atop a New Look silhouette, adding external white shoulder pads (they looked like football pads) to one boned lace dress and a cardigan on the other. A gray Bar jacket with black piping atop skinny gray pants featured body temperature regulating technology in the seams.
It could have gone wrong. Wearable technology is not a new idea after all; around the time of the Apple Watch, fashion was already moving there, doing so, in a flirtation that didn’t end particularly well. And the strapping kit came with some weird dangling bits, which turned out to be threads used to inflate the stuffing and looked a little silly.
But while Ms. Chiuri was originally interested in revealing the architecture of the inside, the mostly hidden wires and mechanics that after all represent where technology and fashion intersect (both are about construction and what the materials can do), the result looked like nothing so much as personal protective equipment, though not the pandemic kind we’ve seen recently. The kind that are more likely to help the wearer navigate an uneasy next era. Whatever it may bring.
Indeed, in addition to the actual complementary technology, the shapes inspired by the technology are – basket weave leather corsets that make up day dresses in tablecloth checks and gray menswear; khaki and checked bar jackets with removable quilted nylon lining and matching gloves in the pockets; cool motorcycle leather in primary shades; a pair of gorgeous shimmering jacquard puffers over matching brocade trousers – looked modern.
Sometimes it is enough to look at the familiar through a different lens or point of view.
Vaquera’s designers Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee have done just that by moving their show from their home base of New York to Paris. The move rooted their aggro-school kid-provocateur “fashion fan fiction” (as they called it in a press release) firmly in the tradition of fashion subversive, gleaming with a new level of shine as glossy as the clear corrugated plastic that covered their lace lingerie dresses and as visible as the super sized faded jeans or sweeping the floor of giant knits.
And it’s what Anthony Vaccarello did in Saint Laurent, in a great, clean-lined show of casual chic hung on a razor.
The tension between no-nonsense outerwear—pea cashmere and belted overcoats, motorcycle leather jackets, intricate round opera jackets, giant faux fur (that’s really the next era)—and delicate evening wear: bias-cut silk, wispy chiffons, sheer lace, jersey with ruffles.
Shoulders were broad; waist, narrow; lines, long and slender. There was no frills and almost no embellishments, except armloads of gold and silver bracelets that looked as much like armor as jewelry. There was a Le Smokings final. Saint Laurent basics, in other words, cut with contemporary ease by a designer at ease with the weight of his legacy, and without pointless distractions. No complicated straps or revealing bits or shoes that made walking impossible.
The women in them looked completely self-conscious. Safe in their own skin. Ready to handle whatever comes in the most effective way. Really, that’s all anyone wants from their clothes.