It is a symptom of the current state of flux in the fashion industry that Dior’s autumn/winter womenswear show – the traditional biannual showpiece of the house, staged in a lavish mirrored venue in the Louvre according to the long-established calendar of Paris fashion week – was upstaged by the announcement of another Dior show.
The house will exhibit its cruise collection in Blenheim Palace on 31 May, two days before Gucci stages an equally blockbusting show in London’s Westminster Abbey. The news puts the historic buildings of England centre stage in the cruise catwalk schedule, which is rapidly becoming the most glamorous and high-profile season of the fashion year.
Last spring, Gucci’s show was held in New York and Dior’s in Cannes, while Louis Vuitton visited Palm Springs in California and Chanel went to Seoul. This year, while Louis Vuitton prepares a pre-Olympic extravaganza in Rio de Janeiro and Chanel a visit to Cuba, two of the major shows will take place in the UK.
The Blenheim announcement, and the mighty scale of Dior’s Paris show – for which no expense was spared, from the space age tunnelled catwalk housed inside the Louvre, to Kendall Jenner on the catwalk – seemed intended to stress that Dior’s status in the fashion world is undiminished despite the label’s continued lack of a creative director following the unexpected departure of Raf Simons last October. This collection, like January’s haute couture, was designed by Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier, longstanding key members of the Dior design studio.
The pair are doing a good job. The classic “bar” shape, a whittled waist swelling to a high, exaggerated hip curve, was beautifully executed here on coats in ivory and sky blue. Meanwhile, the modern edge that Simons introduced to the house continues to thrive: the colourful, high-necked knit shirts layered under coats, and the spare, shoulder-baring lines of the cocktail dresses were in synergy with the silhouettes being worn by the audience, which is a good thing.
But it was a Dior collection that at times seemed intent on covering all bases – from Christian Dior himself, in the peplums and ultra-feminine embroidery, to the Raf Simons futuristic aesthetic in the knife-sharpness of sliced-off necklines and Rey-from-Star-Wars hairstyles – at the expense of the distinct point of view that is vital for a fashion house hoping to set the agenda.
The news of May’s Blenheim Palace show might suggest a British name will soon be announced at the helm of Dior (Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and Erdem have both been rumoured to be in talks). However, Dior declined to confirm an announcement was imminent, or indeed that a decision had been made, pointing instead to the house’s historic connection with Blenheim Palace.
In 1954, at the invitation of the Duchess of Marlborough, Christian Dior reprised his Paris autumn/winter haute couture show to an audience including Princess Margaret, a confirmed Dior fan who had worn the label for her 21st birthday party. Each of the 1,600 guests paid five guineas to attend, with the proceeds going to the British Red Cross. Four years later, after Dior’s death and under the direction of Yves Saint Laurent, the house returned for a second show at the Oxfordshire country house. This year’s show will put Blenheim on the catwalk circuit for the third time after a gap of 58 years.