What does haute couture look like in the time of coronavirus? Today, Paris’s biannual couture fashion week – the pinnacle of luxury on the French fashion calendar – was held virtually for the first time in its storied history.
But how does a fashion house translate the hundreds of hours of painstaking work that goes into each six-figure red carpet creation through a computer screen?
For Dior – one of the first super-brands to unveil its latest collection on the online schedule – the answer was via a beautifully shot film, entitled Le Myth Dior and live streamed on its website, depicting models transformed into nymphs, mermaids and other mythical woodland creatures wistfully choosing from a dolls house trunk of miniature gowns.
But this is more than a cinematic experience, because the trunk and the tiny creations are real and destined to be bound for couture clients across the globe who find themselves without means to travel.
“Immediately it was evident that it wasn’t possible to realise a show,” said artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri, speaking at a press preview on Zoom ahead of today’s virtual event. “But in couture, it’s so important to be able to touch, feel and see the craftsmanship.”
The solution? To enlist the atelier’s skilled ‘petite mains’ seamstresses – many of whom were working from their homes during Paris’s lockdown – to create the entire 37-piece collection in perfect 40 per cent scale versions. These miniatures will be sent to clients across the world from New York to Shanghai, to allow the intricacy to be appreciated up close, along with the full-sized toile designs to ensure a made-to-measure fit via a Zoom appointment with the couture house in Paris.
“It may appear to be more easy to realise a couture dress in miniature but it’s not true, in many ways its more difficult,” said Chiuri, who added that the idea was inspired by the doll-sized reproductions created by Parisian couturiers and artists after the Second World War to promote their work.
But the concept isn’t just about practicality and portability. “I think it’s also about the idea of playfulness because in this moment we are not to lose what is an important element of fashion. Clients can’t come to the show, but they have instead a personalised experience.”
In lieu of a physical catwalk, delivering a fantasy world was paramount to Dior’s vision. “We wanted to translate this dream in a film to remember the value of fashion – the creativity and this idea of artisan and craftsmanship. It’s an important tradition that should not be lost.
“We have to be pragmatic and we know that now everything is more difficult. But we are very happy to find a way to make something new that is not the normal fashion show but in time I think could have the same value and the same potential to be appreciated.”