A Dior tarot for uncertain times at Paris Haute Couture Week

FILE PHOTO: Maria Grazia Chiuri, designer for fashion house Dior, works during a fitting session ahead of the Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection presentation in a digital format in Paris, France, January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - Lavish golden dresses decked out in zodiac signs and tarot symbols provided some Christian Dior-infused mysticism for the start of Paris' Haute Couture Week, a showcase of one-of-a-kind outfits held online this time due to the COVID-19 crisis.

One of the high points of the yearly fashion calendar, with elaborate hand-stitched outfits providing a touch of luxurious escapism, the latest edition was held without crowds as brands replaced the runway with online projections.

In a whimsical film set in a fairy-style castle, populated by Libra, Capricorn and models decked out as other astrological signs, Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri provided glitter and gold with gowns that combined lame fabric with velvet.

Silhouettes strayed from Chiuri's usual cinched waists, with empire line necks in some cases, and capes fit for medieval royalty, including one decked out entirely in intricate flowers made from feathers.

The collection was inspired by tarot cards - a recurring motif and reference at Dior, including under the brand's superstitious late founder - with many looks evoking a 15th century illuminated tarot deck known as the Visconti-Sforza.

Chiuri said she had been keen to explore the magic and solace tarot could offer nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended lives and industries globally, while many nations are still under lockdowns to control the disease.

"It can help you not to be afraid of something you don't know, that's so insecure," Chiuri said of the tarot references in an interview. The cards are often used for fortune telling, a theme explored in the Dior film, directed by Italy's Matteo Garrone.

Luxury brands have had to transform the way they plan for collections with coronavirus restrictions, and Chiuri said Dior now carried out fittings with Haute Couture clients over Zoom calls, orchestrating adjustments from afar.

Runway shows are usually an opportunity for fashion editors, bloggers and buyers to get a sense of the brands' buzz up close.

Chiuri said Dior had forged ahead with its collection in order to give some of the industries that depend on fashion weeks a leg up too.

"We tried to make the best of it for the supply chain too. We have to maintain the tradition of embroidery in Paris," Chiuri said.

Top brands like Chanel are also due to present their Haute Couture ranges online. Schiaparelli, whose Texan designer Daniel Roseberry dressed Lady Gaga for Joe Biden's inauguration as U.S. President last week, earlier on Monday showcased bejewelled gowns paired with oversized earrings and super-hero style dresses which appeared to give models sculpted abdominals.

(Reporting by Sarah White; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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