Day one highlights at Paris Haute Couture Week, from Dior to Schiaparelli

Tulle, planets and embroidery are the order of the day

The spring/summer 2022 haute couture collection by Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior was a masterclass in elegant restraint. EPA
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Paris Haute Couture Week is back, and while it may have been interrupted once again by the pandemic – for example, Giorgio Armani cancelling his in-person show – the array of handmade confections for spring/summer 2022, so far, are well worth the wait.

Giambattista Valli

A red tulle gown by Giambattista Valli spring/summer 2022 haute couture. Photo: Giambattista Valli

Never one to shy away from an excuse to show copious amounts of tulle, Giambattista Valli took a rather radical step of combining his haute couture collection with his pre-autumn 2022 looks.

Arriving as only 18 looks, shown via a Covid-friendly film, the two ranges complemented one another perfectly. The pre-autumn outfits were notable for their comparative simplicity, but were still romantically complex (this is Valli after all) and included a wrapped mini-dress in the palest pink, finished with a train and great bow on the neckline, or culottes and a puff-sleeved cropped top in black. Cleverly folded at the neckline, it was beautifully innovative.

In between were Valli’s speciality: great, glorious gowns that leave the viewer overwhelmed by the sheer happily-ever-after-ness that Valli has made his own. Think a funnel necked 1960s-inspired look in rich golden brocade and covered in a mist of fluttering feathers, or a dramatic full-skirted tiered dress in gleaming black silk, with more feathers and a bow, and looking every inch glamorous.

Another look offered a new take on the slashed dress, taking the slit higher than ever and teaming it with silver flared trousers. There was a tiered, ruffled explosion in red, and a bride-worthy strapless gown with a skirt of ruffled silk. The nude dress in particular was a delight, with miles of tulle caught at the waist and worn with thigh-high boots.

Christian Dior

Dior spring/summer 2022 haute couture. Photo: Dior

If Valli was about unabashed, attention-grabbing romance, then the latest offering from Dior was the exact opposite, instead delivering a collection of discreet wealth.

For this outing, Maria Grazia Chiuri evoked the Indian heritage of embroidery that stretches back centuries and rivals the expertise of any couture house, by lining the show space at the Musee Rodin with huge embroideries by artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh. Covered in bold, graphic imagery, each was handmade by the school of Chanakya, which trains the next generation of embroiderers and handworkers. To give an idea of the scale of the work involved, 380 artisans worked for 280,000 hours embroidering panels that together cover 340 square metres.

Against such a vivid backdrop, Chiuri delivered a collection that was pared back and so exquisitely underplayed, it was a revelation. Such a reduction, of course, showed the deep sophistication of couture, and the immense skill of the Dior atelier in creating looks such as a cream, single-buttoned suit, where the jacket was cut away to reveal the high-waisted trousers underneath, or a deceptively simple floor-length skirt under a collarless sheath, so artfully cut it looked unlined. Or a round-neck dress with cap sleeves, also in cream, cut from four pieces of fabric, while bar jackets, in both cream and black, hugged the waist without any sort of constriction.

For evening, equally simple silhouettes were elevated with loose beadwork, such as a white hobble skirt covered in silver and worn with a sheer dress shirt, and a diaphanous, beaded dress in soft grey. Best of all were the fluid, backless dresses in silver lamé that echoed the sublime elegance of the silver screen. At first glance there may be little symmetry between the large, colourful wall hangings and the discreet, subtle looks on the runway, but both spoke volumes about the mastery of handwork and technique.


A hat with the circumference of a small planet, Schiaparelli spring/summer 2022 haute couture. Photo: Schiaparelli

As a house steeped in surrealism, it seemed fitting that Daniel Roseberry, artistic director of Schiaparelli, should look to the heavens for inspiration for this season, in particular the planetary bodies with which we journey around the Sun.

As the ultimate escapism, Roseberry and his team translated these planets sometimes quite literally, such as a metallic gold bodypiece, topped with Saturn's rings in brass, or a dress finished with a headpiece and cuffs embroidered with rays of sunshine. Elsewhere there were hats with the circumference of a small planet, and even silk collars stiffened and left floating around shoulders.

Gold details shone against the black clothes, as strange, twisted, jewel-covered pieces, or as handbags made to look like a woman's head. One dress even came with strips of metal bursting out of the neckline, and hanging to the floor like a huge metallic jellyfish. Strange? Yes. Surreal? Definitely. But it was also beautiful and lifted us, albeit briefly, from the woes of planet Earth.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 2:45 PM