From left to right: Dior, Kenneth Ize, Marine Serre.
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Courtesy of Dior, Kenneth Ize, Marine Serre
When I first arrived in Paris as a fashion writer in 1987, Thierry Mugler was the impossible invitation – Mugler and, of course, Jean Paul Gaultier. I remember begging the publicists, who buried me in Gallic disdain. I was the novice, the boor, and, in their eyes, destined to remain so. Eventually, I made my way to Mugler, where I saw the great Lypsinka (aka John Epperson) playing and a fleet of gorgeous women, the most memorable Iman and Brazilian star Betty Lago, shed in feathers and satin or molded bustiers that looked like a shiny car. grids.
Carla Bruni at the retrospective, next to a first photo of her modeling Mugler.
Photo: Cathy Horyn
Tonight, during the opening of “Thierry Mugler, Couturissime” at the Decorative Arts Museum, I met the legends of the Mugler Farida Khelfa and Carla Bruni parades. But seeing the clothes, as well as an amazing display of fashion photography, I remember that whatever Mugler was as a designer, he was first and foremost human. He worshiped the body.
It is probably not fair to compare Mugler’s world – that is, the years between 1973 and 2002, when he left the company – with that of today. But it’s hard not to be struck by the differences between yesterday and today. One difference is that despite the perception that fashion is a colossal business, touching many lives across brands and social media, it has actually shrunk down as a mode of creative expression. With a few exceptions, there is a clarification of ideas at the top of the industry that has accelerated over the past decade. Externally, the finery remains: great shows, historical prestige, craftsmanship. But it’s a bit like opening a huge box of disguises to discover, under the handkerchief, a correct T-shirt.
Photo credit: courtesy of Dior
This is what I felt today at Dior. The company erected a giant box in the Tuileries, with flashing disco lights and a round platform meant to evoke a dance floor, and yet, stylistically speaking, there wasn’t much inside the box. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest collection was obviously inspired by a 1961 collection by Marc Bohan, known as the Slim Look – because it featured crisp, clean lines and a young, sexy sensuality, in contrast to full-skirted, hourglass-shaped glamor from Christian Dior. New look.
The problem was, the designs, and the feeling behind them, seemed totally artificial. There are undoubtedly young, well-behaved women who might like a cheeky-looking mini sweater over a white blouse, or a sunny yellow or navy spring coat, with patent black Mary Janes in gold heels. But beyond a certain type of cardboard miss, Chiuri doesn’t seem to think of a woman in the flesh. And what about a Dior customer who is over, say, 30 years old and doesn’t have a slim body? Imaginatively, they were excluded from this collection (apart from, perhaps, a few coats). And frankly, a lot of the costumes were so polished, and apparently based on classic Italian or American sportswear, that they looked like uniforms – say, for an airline or a high-end boutique.
Also, I didn’t understand the reference to the Roman nightclub, the Piper Club – as the show’s ratings say, “a sprawling and colorful place and an emblem of freedom”. Again, this seems absurd to me. Dior is above all a French house. It amazes me that its leaders allow Chiuri to incorporate so many Italian references into his presentations. The live music for this show was by an Italian band. But that’s not why the allusion to the club was absurd. It was that no one in that big extravagant box seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Photo: Courtesy of Marine Serre
In 2017, Marine Serre dazzled the industry with the boldness of its vision. She won the LVMH prize. In February 2019, Serre staged a show that imagined a post-apocalyptic world. It was in a tunnel. She then made a collection called Maree Noire, which means “oil slick”. Featuring black clove-shaped hooded coats, its cheerful theme was mass destruction in the wake of climate wars.
No surprise then, perhaps, that Serre has an entirely different response to the pandemic. On Monday evening, in a pretty public garden in the Marais, she aired a movie that showed a bunch of “friends” – a mix of races, genders and ages – relaxing in a chalet. They did yoga together, baked bread, put towels on their heads in a playful way. She called the Fichu Pour Fichu collection. Damn has a curious etymology. On the one hand, it means a small scarf or a triangular stole. Scarf necklaces, in white linen or cotton, were great in the 18th century. And, on the other hand, it means “We’re already screwed, so why not?”
Serre’s vision isn’t the only thing that has changed. Most importantly, her clothes have evolved. They are simpler and easier to wear than in the past. “I want to serve a generation,” she told me in her studio earlier today. “And that means being able to take your clothes to the streets. So as not to be too complicated. She has already perfected responsible fashion; 45% of her collection is made from reclaimed clothing or household items – such as tea towels for a series of cute flower-embroidered white shirts and dresses – and 45% is made from recycled fibers, like a stylish jumpsuit in moiré. which was made from recycled fishing net. But its simple, everyday shapes also seem timely, and among the best was an alluring white table linen crochet tank dress, a patchwork dress made from a recycled crumpled material that Serre called “popcorn.” , Which was popular in the 1970s, and easy white cotton shirts and pants with humble Dutch-style embroidery and tatting. She also created jewelry from old cutlery.
Reflecting on the adult difference in his work, Serre said, “It’s not for nothing that I did all these doomsday shows.”
Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Ize
You couldn’t be more grounded than the sandals on Kenneth Ize’s show, also Monday, with double bands made from scraps of striped fabric he wove in his native Nigeria. Brightly colored Ottoman fabrics are as attractive as they were when Ize, who grew up in Austria, first exhibited in Paris almost two years ago, his label initially funded by a GoFundMe page. What has changed is the quality of the fit and the proportions. Classic sportswear – skinny pants, sarongs, a suit blazer layered over a light jersey waistcoat – can easily go bland, but Ize maintains a nice rigor and polish without losing comfort. The slip-on dresses and camisoles, including a cherry red with a diagonal cascade of thin pink to red fringes, looked particularly new.