For the first big day of Paris Fashion Week, the two biggest names presenting their collections could not have been more different. On one side was the artisanal focus of Dior, and on the other was the 1980s power shoulders of Saint Laurent.
For its spring/summer 2023 show in Paris on Tuesday, Dior constructed an intricate set out of thousands of pieces of cardboard, delicately carved to create a grotto that felt like a beautiful ruin, rediscovered in a forest. As well as being particularly lovely to look at, the setting also implied the show that followed would be an ode to handiwork.
Inspired by former French queen Catherine de Medici, the opening look was a bralet top worn with a hooped black lace skirt that sat proud on the hips. Held closed with ties, it was the first of many outfits that featured several layers — which was a mainstay of 15th and 16th-century fashion.
There were tightly laced stomacher corsets, under skirts held up with drawstrings and overskirts that swept to the floor. There were flimsy camisole-like tops and roomy swashbuckler shirts with drop shoulders. Many dresses had crinoline skirts, while other arrived full cut, tiered and covered in lace.
Undoubtedly pretty, everything was given the Dior treatment, so that shorts were worn with floor-length overskirts — hands shoved in pockets for an air of nonchalance usual in a city — while floral evening looks were toughened up with cropped bomber jackets.
Best of all, many models wore shoes up to the knees, in a baroque heel shape that felt resurrected from John Galliano's tenure at the house. Meanwhile, heavy jacquard dresses were ruched with technical drawstrings.
Elsewhere, there was a whole parade of dresses in biscuit tones that were pieced from handmade lace.
As an ode to the woman who was one of the first to understand the power of clothing to impress, this collection, conjured by artisanal hands, and brimming with delicate decoration, would make Ms de Medici proud.
At Saint Laurent, creative director Anthony Vaccarello went in a totally different direction, embracing the slinky sleekness of the 1980s.
In a pared-back show — if a presentation in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower can ever be described as such — Vaccarello stuck to a very singular vision, offering look after look based on the same slimline silhouette.
With clingy tube dresses, or belted silky pyjama suits, under jacket or coats with 1980s power shoulders, the differences between the looks was subtle, perhaps in the styling of the drapery around the torso, or the length of the jacket or the wearing of a coat over the top.
The collection shifted from jackets as roomy blousons in leather and a floor-grazing wool coat with squared-off shoulders to hooded dresses. It was all an exercise in staying close to a theme.
The palette moved from mustard to mulberry and from purple to black. This is more colour than Vaccarello usually offers, since mostly prefers inky black. Here, with mocha dresses worn with sultry sunglasses — despite the show taking place at night — there are pops of ochre, and even old gold, all conjuring a Studio 54 mood.
It harks back to the work of the label's namesake founder in the 1980s. The show was both reverential and forward-looking, with all its overtones of strong women.
As the models pounded down the open-air runway in the sporadic rain, all it needed was Grace Jones to arrive, and all of our dreams would have come true.
Scroll through the gallery below to see celebrities who attended the Saint Laurent show