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Velvet ropes controlling the line of customers eager to check out Virgil Abloh’s just-opened Off-White store on rue Castiglione, a packed courtyard of fashion-industry insiders enjoying lunch at Hotel Costes, and fans lingering outside the Hotel Ritz, hoping for a glimpse and an Instagram photo of an A-list star: All signs indicate that Paris is fully embracing a post-lockdown lifestyle, and luxury labels are playing an integral role.
For some storied fashion and jewelry houses, shows and events during the annual July week of haute-couture and high-jewelry presentations came together quickly once French president Emmanuel Macron announced that the country would reopen in June to vaccinated travelers from outside the European Union. “We hadn’t been planning to do anything special, but that all changed once we heard how many [non-E.U. editors and clients] wanted to be here,” said one designer’s spokesperson.
Schiaparelli creative director Daniel Roseberry agreed as he greeted guests on Tuesday, July 6, at the house’s Place Vendôme atelier, where he oversaw a still-life presentation of the matador-themed Fall/Winter 2021 haute-couture collection he had debuted the day before. “It’s wonderful to see so many faces in person and not on Zoom meetings,” he joked, adding that the artful details of his latest haute-couture outing, from the golden sculpted roses that formed the corset bodice of one gown to the hand embroideries by the artisans at Lesage, the maison that stretches its work back to Elsa Schiaparelli’s time, could only be best appreciated via in-person viewing.
Indeed, while a few designers continued this haute-couture season with the virtual presentations that enabled them to showcase new collections throughout the pandemic, others seemed all too eager to return to the energy of a fashion show with a live audience — with precautions in place. At Dior’s showing at the Musee Rodin, each guest had his or her temperature checked upon entry, was provided with hand sanitizer and offered a mask if not already wearing one. Another concession to the social-distancing rules that have become de rigueur over the past 16 months: attendees were more than comfortably spaced, a far cry from the sardine-like seating that was all too common at fashion shows before a global pandemic altered our mindsets about sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Unlike recent seasons, with virtual presentations sparsely populated by high-wattage global ambassadors sitting alone as models paraded by, the stars were out for this week in Paris. Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Monica Bellucci and Florence Pugh were among the attendees at Dior to view Maria Grazia Chiuri’s ruminations on texture and shape, while Chanel drew Halston’s Rebecca Dayan and Sofia Coppola and Margaret Qualley did a star turn on the Chanel runway as the bride in Virginie Viard’s pale pink satin gown, topped by a pillbox hat and sequin-embellished veil. (Coppola and her brother, Roman, also co-directed a teaser video starring Qualley for the house.)
Salma Hayek and her husband, Kering Group president and CEO Francois-Henri Pinault, were front and center for the debut of Balenciaga’s first haute-couture collection in 53 years. The Kering-owned label overseen by Demna Gvasalia presented its collection in the restored couture salon that Cristobal Balenciaga presided over from 1937 until his retirement in 1968. Gvasalia’s plays on tailoring, proportion and volume in the collection, an almost-equal mix of men’s and women’s designs, were an instant hit, as were Philip Treacy’s graphic, sculpted hats, a perfect mix of chic simplicity and unabashed excess.
The week also revealed that star power likewise is influencing high jewelry, the one-of-a-kind designs that represent the ne plus ultra of a house’s handcraft abilities and DNA, all wrapped around some of the world’s most spectacular diamonds and gemstones. With stars like Dan Levy and Billy Porter sporting brooches on the red carpet during recent awards seasons, Boucheron followed suit by presenting brooches and rings on male models for the first time at its Place Vendôme presentation. Creative director Claire Choisne was inspired by the idea of holograms for her aptly named Holographique collection, with pieces like floral brooches crafted in holographic ceramic, titanium and white gold, one sporting a 25.01-carat cushion-cut green tourmaline at its center, or a ring set with a 30.98-carat Australian opal, surrounded by sapphires, Paraiba tourmalines, tsavorites and emeralds to play off the colors seen in the stone.
Chopard also employed a black opal cabochon for a ring set in titanium and accented with yellow sapphires, part of a Red Carpet collection that was limited only because many pieces already had made their way to the South of France to appear on the Croisette at the Cannes Film Festival.
Piaget likewise played with the idea of light viewed through the lens of gemstones in pieces like the Magical Aurora necklace, which showcased a 16.84-carat Colombian emerald, surrounded by a fireworks-like spray of diamonds and emeralds.
At Cartier, the Sharkara necklace displayed a beautiful tonal effect with tourmalines and garnets in varying shades of pink and orange.
Messika, meanwhile, hosted its presentation at the Hotel de Crillon, where pear-shaped yellow and white diamonds were the highlight in pieces like a single-earring hoop design one can easily imagine on Beyoncé at a future event.
And at Van Cleef & Arpels, a celebration of the house’s iconic ballerina clips ranged from the early designs introduced in the 1940s to a trio of new ballerinas, including a ruby and diamond clip inspired by Proust: Les intermittences du Cœur, the Roland Petit ballet that premiered in 1974. Van Cleef & Arpels presented the new pieces beyond the thought of offering a beloved design to clients; the house is also putting the spotlight on its longtime collaboration with contemporary-dance companies, including the L.A. Dance Project, founded by Benjamin Millepied. Plans are in the works for a variety of Van Cleef & Arpels-sponsored productions to take place around the globe well into 2022—not unlike fashion’s enthusiastic return to glamorous designs presented before live audiences, it’s another sign that virtual increasingly is taking a back seat to sitting in an audience to witness something that’s exquisitely made, with passion for craft top of mind.
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