Paris haute couture week brushes off riots with surrealist start


A model wears a creation for the Schiaparelli haute couture Autumn/Winter 2023 fashion show presented in Paris. Photo: AP

An artist-inspired show from Schiaparelli opened Paris haute couture week Monday (July 3), easing fears that fashion shows would have to be cancelled due to five nights of rioting across France.

French label Celine cancelled its show the day before that (held outside the official calendar), due to unrest sparked by the police killing of a teenager last week.

But with violence ebbing around the French capital over the weekend, the fashion federation said it did not expect disruption to couture week, which celebrates the most expensive, tailor-made end of the industry.

Before a crowd including rapper Cardi B, Vogue editor Anna Wintour and actress Gwendoline Christie, Schiaparelli got things rolling with what it described as "a surrealist's interpretation of a woman's essential closet".

One of the designs was created by hand-painting a woman's body in the style of artist Lucian Freud and then transferring it to a silk body stocking.

Read more: French riots cancel fashion show, cast doubt on haute couture week

A cardigan and skirt made from broken mirror pieces was inspired by sculptor Jack Whitten, and there were nods to Sarah Lucas, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali – borrowing the vibrant colours of his distorted sunrise paintings.

The brand's designer Daniel Roseberry has overseen a revamp at the long-standing brand, and caused a media sensation at its last show with fake animal heads sported by the likes of Kylie Jenner.

Monday will also see the Christian Dior show and US designer Thom Browne's first as part of couture week.

Another debutant is 26-year-old Charles De Vilmorin, who will present for his own brand after a short-lived tenure as artistic director of Rochas.

"I'm super happy to have lived through all this and to do my first show," the Frenchman said.

Saudi money

A dominant feature of this fashion season in Paris has been the lavish spending by Saudi Arabia as it tries to establish its own fashion industry.

Couturier Mohammad Ashi is set to become the first Saudi designer to show as part of the official couture roster with his eponymous label.

There have been multiple events across the menswear and couture weeks to introduce newcomers from the kingdom, including a cocktail soiree at the Ritz hotel.

Ashi has been a favourite of celebrities for a while, dressing the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan, Penelope Cruz and star of the new Indiana Jones movie, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wore one of his creations to the London premiere last week.

Saudi Arabia has been pumping billions into everything from film to football as part of radical social changes overseen by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Read more: ChatGPT was an unexpected guest at Marc Jacobs' New York fashion show

Fellow couturier Stephane Rolland presents his latest collection on Tuesday (July 3), dedicated to legendary singer Maria Callas at the Opera Garnier, where she often performed.

It will be filmed by veteran French director Claude Lelouch for his next film.

Rolland said it was vital to merge fashion and other art forms.

"It's very important in our profession. I find that from time to time it lacks a bit of refinement. Money is not everything," he said.

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