Dior and Saint Laurent face the future

Models present looks at the Dior fall 2022 fashion show in Paris, March 1, 2022. (Photo: NYTimes)
PARIS — A designer has to have a certain amount of gumption to not only title a fashion show “The Next Era” but to take the phrase and splash it on tank tops, opera-length leather motor racing gloves and boots.اضافة اعلان

Especially at a time like the present, when questions about the end of an era are front of mind, and fears about what’s next have taken on a freighted meaning.

Yet at Dior, title and splash Maria Grazia Chiuri did, to surprisingly effective result (slogan tees aside).

She borrowed the phrase, she said in a preview, from Italian artist Mariella Bettineschi — the latest in the designer’s series of female change-makers — and a series of portraits by Bettineschi of the same name that feature women appropriated from the work of old masters and recreated — rendered the primary protagonists of their own stories and given two sets of eyes.

Which is, after all, what designers such as Chiuri have to do every time they take the helm of a heritage house: go back to the past and reinvent it, over and over again, with a new point of view.

So multiples of Bettineschi’s portraits were hung around the show space to frame, literally, the point, as Chiuri offered up her own reengineering of history: Dior classics, infused or overlaid with wearable tech.

Working with an Italian company, D-Air Lab, that specializes in protective clothing for arctic explorers and extreme athletes (the first look in the collection was a black bodysuit covered in venous-like tubing that mimicked the company’s temperature-regulating “undersuit”), Chiuri pulled internal safety padding out to create a strap-on corset atop a New Look silhouette, added external white shoulder pads (they looked sort of like football pads) to one boned lace dress and a vest to another. A gray Bar jacket piped in black atop skinny gray trousers contained body temp-regulating tech within its seams.

It could have gone badly wrong. Wearable tech is not, after all, a new idea; around the time of the Apple Watch, fashion already went there, did that, in a flirtation that did not end particularly well. And the strap-on gear came with some weird dangly bits, which turned out to be wires used to inflate the padding and looked a little silly.

But while Chiuri was originally interested in revealing the architecture of the inside, the usually hidden wires and mechanics that represent, after all, where technology and fashion intersect (both are about construction and what the materials can do), the result looked like nothing so much as personal protective equipment, though not the pandemic kind we have recently known. The kind that may, rather, help the wearer navigate an uncomfortable next era. Whatever it might bring.

Indeed, beyond the actual supplemental tech, the forms the tech inspired — basket weave leather corsets shaping day dresses in tablecloth checks and menswear grays; khaki and plaid Bar jackets with detachable quilted nylon linings and matching gloves tucked into the pockets; cool motorcycle leathers in primary shades; some gorgeous glistening jacquard puffers over matching brocade trousers — looked modern.

Sometimes all it takes is considering the familiar through a different lens, or a new point of view.

That’s what designers Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee of Vaquera did by shifting their show from their home base of New York to Paris. The move rooted their aggro-school kid-provocateur “fashion fan fiction” (as they called it in a news release) firmly in the tradition of fashion subversives, glossed with a new level of polish as shiny as the clear ruffled plastic that covered their lacy lingerie dresses, and as visible as the supersize faded denim trousers or the floor-sweeping arms of gargantuan knits.

And it is what Anthony Vaccarello did at Saint Laurent, in a terrific, tightly conceived show of nonchalant chic suspended on a razor’s edge.

On the tension between no-nonsense outerwear — cashmere peacoats and belted greatcoats, leather motorcycle jackets, swaddling curvy opera jackets, giant fake furs (that’s genuinely next era) — and delicate evening wear: bias-cut silks, wispy chiffons, sheer lace, ruched jersey.

Shoulders were broad; waists, narrow; lines, long and lean. There was no frippery and almost no decoration, save armloads of gold and silver bangles that seemed as much like armor as jewelry. There was a finale of Le Smokings. Saint Laurent basics, in other words, cut with a contemporary ease by a designer at ease with the weight of his inheritance, and with no pointless distraction. No complicated straps or revealing bits or shoes that made it impossible to walk.

The women in them looked entirely self-possessed. Secure in their own skins. Ready to handle, in the most effective way, whatever does come next. Really, that’s all anyone wants from their clothes.

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