The Christian Dior spring 2018 couture show was a grand optical dream

Paris Haute Couture

Text: Norman Tan

Inspired by surrealism and modern art, Maria Grazia Chiuri delivered a stunning haute couture collection that celebrated craftsmanship over colour

Attending a Christian Dior haute couture show is like entering the world of Narnia — you never really know what you're going to encounter until you've passed through the main building at Musée Rodin (like stepping through the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and enter into the show space (always purpose-built for each collection). But regardless of whether the runway is a wild overgrown maze, or a safari field populated with life-size jigsaw animals, you know you're in for a fantastical treat. And for spring/summer 2018, that treat wasn't only fantastical, it was also surreal.

Housed inside a mirrored checkerboard box that dominated the back garden of Musée Rodin on the Left Bank, a black-and-white checkerboard runway lined with black-and-white chairs set the scene. Large white sculptures of body parts — hands, noses, eyes, lips and a torso — as well as black birdcages (enduring icons of the surrealist movement) dangled from the ceiling. Through the creative genius of set designers Bureau Betak, we have somehow left Paris' overcast grey skies and incessant rain and found ourselves in an otherworldly wonderland.

When it came to the collection, it was a celebration of craftsmanship over colour with artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri sending out 72 looks (large for a couture show, considering that everything is painstakingly stitched by hand) predominantly in black-and-white. Highlights include that ivory stain cuir coat with domino intarsia (look 2); that sculptural woven horsehair cage over black velvet ribbon-embroidered skirt (look 28); that radiating evening dress in jacquard with old-gold embroidery, which was very Valentino (look 38); that black triple organza long dress featuring hand-painted zodiac motifs (a leitmotif of Maria Grazia Chiuri's designs) topped with a black pleated tulle cape (look 56); and that powerful closing look of full-length black cape worn over a black tuxedo paired with a black tulle shirt and tie (look 72).

"Any artist's true 'studio' is his or her spirit," explained the show notes. "It's this dimension, located somewhere between dream and reality, or imagination and realisation, that Maria Grazia Chiuri... pursues her research and explorations." Which, ultimately, is the purpose of haute couture. Fashion, like art, is meant to inspire; to help its wearer transcend the normalcy of everyday life. And it was this transformative power of couture, combined with the stylistic details — the ethereal eye masks created by British milliner Stephen Jones; those dramatic painted-on eyelash makeup by Peter Philips; and the fake French slogan tattoos that decorated the collarbones of models in lieu of jewels ("Si vous aimez l'armour vous aimerez le surrealism"; that is, "If you love love, you love surrealism") — that made Dior's spring 2018 couture show a grand optical dream. Magnifique!

See all our coverage of the best shows from Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week spring/summer 2018.


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