PARIS – “I’m just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time,” Lady Gaga once said. And the fashion-inspired singer reigned supreme at the opening of Paris’ luxuriant haute couture shows. Monday marked the first full day of the spring-summer 2014 displays in Paris, including collections from Christian Dior Couture, Giambattista Valli and Schiaparelli.
Here are some key moments and tidbits from the day.
LADY GAGA AT VERSACE
She may not yet have changed the world, but Lady Gaga almost upstaged the clothes at the Atelier Versace couture show on Sunday night.
The slim bottle-blond singer, who sported a black hooded Versace look with draped silk jersey gown, a full train and open back, observed from the front row. She gave a standing ovation to the tiny Donatella Versace — looking like her twin, also in black — as she walked down the catwalk to cap the collection.
Gaga, who featured in Versace’s spring advertising campaign, was responsible for the show soundtrack, with remixed versions of her hits with lyrics such as “I’m skinny and I’m loving it” blasting out.
In fact, skinniness was the defining characteristic of the decadent show. And not just in the super-cinched couture silhouettes. The width of this show’s seating was narrowed to under 30 cm (12 inches), and barely could accommodate a normal-sized human posterior.
INSPIRED BY GRACE JONES
Grace Jones, the iconic singer who often wore hoods, inspired Donatella Versace’s bejeweled couture show.
Hoods in black, brash acid green and lilac blue came in satin silk or jersey or simply dripped in mesh made of tiny chains and crystals with the aggressive sexuality of the fiery Jamaican-born model.
Waists were cinched with bustiers, sometimes alongside draping or a white fox and mink fur coat.
Elsewhere, embellishments on sheer fabric looked like tattoos on the skin — among the best looks — and led the eye down to inches upon inches of exposed leg.
If there was any doubt as to the kind of woman Versace was designing for the program notes said it all: a “contemporary goddess.”
In other words, mere mortals (real women) may well have slim pickings inside Donatella’s super-real imagination.
But this is couture, not ready to wear, and it’s meant to make people dream. At the very least, it’s clear that Versace aims to push her version of female beauty to the very highest imagined limit.
DIOR’S DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE COUTURE
Raf Simons took his foot off the intellectual pedal for his Christian Dior spring-summer 2014 couture show Monday. The result? One of the best, and most archetypally “couture” collections in seasons.
Layers, transparencies, abstract scoops and elliptical cutouts gave a diaphanous, weightless feel to silhouettes that literally floated by.
See-through paper-like holes provided — very slightly — a hidden, voyeuristic sensuality.
The plain, white cave-like decor, meanwhile, curved to evoke the idealized female form, and subtly echoed this sensuality.
Gone were the ambitious, myriad flower arrangements of previous seasons, as was the bustling garden imagery in the clothes; and in the place of the rainbow colour palette was simple white, pastels and dark ink blue.
Simple was the word.
But the sign of a master designer is a collection that looks simple, but hides its true complexity.
One looks with as many as five layers of depth was testament to this. The program notes indeed describe this collection as one of the most labour-intensive ever produced.
THE RETURN OF ELSA SCHIAPARELLI
It’s taken almost 60 years, but eccentric Elsa Schiaparelli — the rival of Coco Chanel — is finally back on the Place Vendome.
Monday saw the highly-anticipated first haute couture show from the revived house, designed by former Rochas helmsman Marco Zanini. He had an admirable stab at it.
The first look, a Napoleon hat with a draped royal blue dress invoked revolution, imitating Eugene Delacroix’s famed painting “Liberty leading the people.”
An all-black cinched washed silk look was worn by a model with the big dipper constellation on her head, transforming the clothes into the sky at night. References were sometimes overly literal, sometimes overly reverential.
But it’s a gargantuan task to fill the shoes of a woman considered to be one of the most influential fashion figures of the early 20th century.
If Schiaparelli is no longer a household name — her business folded in 1954, and she died in 1973 — her design firsts have certainly lived on: newspaper prints, exposed zippers, perfume bottles in the female form, shocking pink, and — arguably — the first woman’s power suit.
ON THE FRONT ROW
“Superman Returns” actress Kate Bosworth, in a blue and black check silk Dior sheath, turned up to the Raf Simons show with her husband of five months, film director Michael Polish.
“I have been a fan of Raf (Simons) for forever,” she told The Associated Press. “I’m married to a director, so I understand how each piece is put together and the importance of every detail.”
Meanwhile, HBO “Girls” star Allison Williams was at the same show and wore a beautiful Dior dress with a cinched waistband, expressed an inkling of humour when asked which designer she was wearing.
“Christian Dior. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. He’s a small-time designer from early in the last century. He’s up and coming. I think I see promising work coming from the house.”
At Schiaparelli, former French First Lady Carla Bruni hobnobbed with Jean Paul Gaultier and former model Elle Macpherson on the front row.
GIAMBATTISTA VALLI’S GEOMETRY
To the backdrop of huge geometric crystals, Italian designer Giambattista Valli played with geometry in the female silhouette.
Thick sections of double crepe — in royal blue and white — were banded around the midriff on model whose legs were exposed — a Valli-signature.
Curves in the stiff fabric creatively produced straight diagonal lines in the silhouette, which emphasized an hourglass figure.
The most effective of the 34 looks were those that pushed the volume upward from the midriff, though a few at the beginning of the collection in swirling white made the models thighs look bottom heavy.
There was a beautiful series of looks, sometimes in acid green, that played with the female silhouette by segmenting it in three — in a similar direction to that of Raf Simons in previous Christian Dior shows. It was a highly feminine affair.
© The Associated Press, 2014