Paris Fashion Week: Dior and Saint Laurent make a strong and practical start

Two of the biggest names in the industry present collections on day one

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Paris Fashion Week has opened with shows from two of the biggest names in the industry.

At Dior, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri looked back at the history of the house she now leads, turning to the 1950s, when Christian Dior was still at the helm. Chiuri chose three women who were prominent during that era as muses for this latest collection — French singers Edith Piaf and Juliette Greco, and Christian's sister, Catherine, who was a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War War and who survived being imprisoned by the Gestapo in Ravensbruck women's concentration camp.

Chuiri resurrected classic 1950s silhouettes, now made with modern, technical materials. Opening the show was a beautifully simple white shirt, half undone, and teamed with a sleek black pencil skirt. Finishing the look were leather opera gloves, sheer ankle socks and pointed, ankle-strap pumps.

With customers worldwide expressing a desire for simple, practical pieces that will stand the test of time, the collection was pared-back and streamlined, both in terms of pieces on offer and the outlines, yet remained wonderfully, elegantly chic.

Fabrics were woven and boned with invisible metal to allow garments to be moulded for the perfect fit while providing a charmingly crumpled feel that looked artfully undone and lived in, like treasured pieces worn again and again.

The 1950s-inspired shapes continued as pencil skirts and full skirts, arriving without the rigid boning of the originals, instead cut to be looser, lighter and far less formal, echoing the need for comfort in the modern world. Many dresses and skirts were covered with differing blurred, hazy patterns, such as flowers seen through mesh or street maps of Paris — the city the house helped to make one of the fashion capitals of the world.

Saint Laurent

Over at Saint Laurent, meanwhile, creative director Anthony Vaccarello delivered a very different take on autumn/winter dressing. The collection also paid homage to eras past, but the inspiration for it was the ostentatious power-dressing of the 1980s.

The entire collection was created around the same exaggerated shoulder outline, offered in different combinations and fabrics. A single or double-breasted jacket with oversized shoulders was teamed with either over-the-knee thigh-split skirts or super-skinny trousers. A leather blouson jacket in equally outlandish proportions, dragged in one hand down the runway, offered some variation.

Although similar at first glance, as is typical of Vaccerello at Saint Laurent, the devil was in the detail. From black-on-black pinstripe to Harris tweed and tartan, constant shifts in fabric offered variation to the collection. Tops worn underneath jackets were made in plain silk scooped low in the front, or as sheer pussy-bow blouses featuring chiffon scarves that trailed down the back.

While the collection may have centered on the practicality of the suit, it still offered plenty of evening glam inspiration. Models were styled with slicked-back hair, dark glasses, huge hoop earrings and spike-heel pumps — taking office wear from day to night. Interestingly, there was only one dress (by my count, at least), made in elegantly draped chiffon.

The collection was very singular in its message, but working to one theme is one of Vaccarello's strengths — he can inhabit an idea so completely there is no need for anything else. Those who love fitted skirts and skin-tight trousers — as many Saint Laurent customers do — will love this collection.

Updated: March 01, 2023, 1:23 PM