A monochrome palette was enlivened by embroidered embellishment
Friday is D-day for Dior, when the Paris couture house will announce its new designer, according to a high-up executive in the LVMH group.
The choice is expected to be Maria Grazia Chiuri, part of the duo which has breathed new life into Valentino. That Italian company shows its couture collection in Paris on Wednesday.
The need for a strong, fresh design spirit was evident at the Paris show, held in the company's historic home on the Avenue Montaigne. The Swiss design duo Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux spelled out in black and white — the only two colours they used — why neat and tidy fashion is not enough in these days of superbrands.
Even Dior's people seemed to think the show needed a little hotting up, as they invited Céline Dion, who sat next to Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of LVMH, and veteran French rock star Johnny Hallyday.
There was nothing wrong with the show - and much that was right — if couture were only about elegant clothes. Today, couture is also the scaffolding on which the vast edifice of a big fashion company must be refurbished, each season.
Meier and Ruffieux built this collection on the foundation of the shapely 'Bar' suit; the duo called it the 'beating heart' that 'punctuated the entire collection'. That famous silhouette was then reinforced by the use of black and white - and only those two 'masculine' and 'feminine' colours.
Much of the collection offered classic elegance
The choice of fabric and textile did create some beautiful variations on this monochrome theme, especially the gradations from snow-white to cream. Different fabrics also varied, with the ebb and flow of their textures.
It seems today that each Dior collection stands in the shadow of the designer that went before. So Raf Simons, who left a year ago, had to pit his Minimalist leanings against the extravagant romanticism of John Galliano.
Now the current pair has to give Modernism a reality check, without making the results too dull. And the new designer will inevitably compare herself to all those who have gone before — including Monsieur Dior himself.
Dior’s staple jackets were much in evidence, over skirts or soft trousers
This Autumn/Winter show was pleasing, often breaking into two the pieces that made up a hip-length black top, perhaps curved up at the back and worn over a full skirt or, occasionally, soft trousers.
The success of the show was its sense of movement, so that a top would swing and a skirt flare. For once, the word 'wearable' never seemed 'yawn!' but rather a reality check on what clients would want to wear.
To the simple, start-off styles there were some gilded accessories and an occasional snaking Paisley pattern in black and white. Embellishment became more intense - although still in a single golden colour - as the show moved forward. The workmanship was was fine, but still created three-dimensional floral effects. Whatever way, the collection was an homage to les petites mains or 'tiny hands', as the workers are known.
I thought this winter couture collection might have had a bigger focus on outerwear and tailored coats, although there were a couple of charming fur shoulder pieces.
The show will surely have success with clients who will find Dior fashion with a light touch. But for now, at this important house, there is currently an uncomfortable sense of: "Next!"
The choice of different textiles lent variation to the monochrome theme