A model presents a creation by French designer Stephane Rolland during the shooting of a film designed to replace Haute Couture fashion shows in Paris on January 18, 2021 / © AFP
With the pandemic forcing Paris Fashion week online, haute couture designers have turned to celebrated arthouse filmmakers to give a little spectacle to their presentations, even if some admit a growing desperation to return to live shows.
In these uncertain times, the fashion world needs a touch of magic more than ever and Dior drafted in Italian director Matteo Garrone for their latest collection inspired by tarot cards.
The filmmaker behind recent left-field hits such as "Gomorrah" and "Pinocchio" created a dreamlike adventure in which a young woman crosses paths with tarot characters such as Justice, the Madman and Death.
The creations on display mix the feminine -- a long lace dress with voluminous sleeves -- with the masculine, in the form of a reinvented version of Dior's iconic "bar" suit.
"Tarot cards speak of a magical world," said Maria Grazia Chiuri, the fashion house's Italian haute couture designer. "Not to tell us the future, but to better understand the present and our personality."
Garrone's "artisanal approach to film-making has a language that is poetic, extremely picturesque, that marries up very well with my vision of haute couture," she told AFP.
A model presents a creation by Christian Dior during a fitting session at Christian Dior's Haute Couture fashion house in Paris on January 20, 2021 / © AFP
Meanwhile, Chanel made their online presentation on Wednesday with a short film and photos by another cult film favourite, Anton Corbijn, known for his gritty Joy Division biopic "Control" and many photographic portraits of rock icons.
"I knew that we couldn't organise a major catwalk show, that we had to do something else. So I had the idea of a little cortege that descends the stairs of the Grand Palais. Like a family celebration, a marriage," said Virginie Viard, Chanel's creative director.
- 'Creativity is a refuge' -
Such positive energy has been hard to maintain as the pandemic grinds on, delaying the return to the glitz and glamour of live fashion events.
Seamstresses work on a dress at Christian Dior's Haute Couture fashion house workshop in Paris on January 20, 2021. With no catwalk fashion shows on offer, the artistic ambitions of fashion designers have gone virtual / © AFP
"It's pointless to deny that the catwalk shows are a key element, not just for Dior, but for the whole fashion world. The guests are a part of the show," said Chiuri.
She is preparing a pret-a-porter collection for the next Fashion Week in March, though she has no idea what will happen.
"The start of the year has been very difficult. There have been ups and downs. It's tiring to constantly find the strength to keep pushing forward. But creativity is a refuge in these difficult times," she said.
Tarot cards were a refuge for Christian Dior himself, who often turned to them as he built his fabled fashion house through the uncertain postwar years.
Chiuri's latest designs draw on the famed Visconti tarots of the 15th century, adorned with gold and enamel, richly verdant and geometrical -- images that guide the contours of the draped dresses and their time-faded colour schemes.
The new take on the bar jacket involves black velvet with a new construction of lateral folds, accessorised with trousers and moccasins.
Chiuri sticks with her well-known feminist aesthetic of flat shoes -- extremely rare in the world of haute couture -- while gold and silver cage boots complete the long dresses.
French designer Stephane Rolland adjusts a headpiece on a model during the shooting of a film designed to replace Haute Couture fashion shows in Paris on January 18, 2021 / © AFP
The style of the Italian Renaissance is also evoked in the way the materials have been worked.
One technique -- known as "devoured velvet" -- involves removing a layer of the velvet to bring out the gold lamé background on the "thousand flowers" dress, or hand-painted zodiac signs on another.