FROM LEFT Dior cruise in Seville’s historic Plaza de España. Our new fashion columnist, Armagh-born Godfrey Deeny, who is the global editor-in-chief of FashionNetwork .com. Valentino haute couture on Rome’s Spanish Steps.
Godfrey Deeny on the return of the far-flung fashion show
16th Nov 2022
From Gucci in a medieval castle in Puglia to Valentino on Rome’s Spanish Steps and Max Mara inside Lisbon’s greatest art collection, our fashion columnist Godfrey Deeny reports from the runways of the most exciting autumn/winter couture and cruise collections.
It was only when a towering tenor began singing “Bésame Mucho” at Christian Dior’s private party to immense cheers by the beautiful Andalusian nobility and Dior-dressed influencers inside the fabulous Alcázar Gardens as I downed a pineapple chilli margarita that I realised that life in fashion was finally getting back to normal.
DIOR invited just 300 VIPs to its garden soirée within the grounds of the Alcázar of Seville. One of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, which attracts over 1.8 million visitors annually, it was made famous more recently as the Water Gardens of Dorne in Game of Thrones.
Scores of young gallants in correctly-angled flat-brimmed hats escorted us through the 13th century Moorish tiled courtyards and domes, past Renaissance apartments and musicians hidden in alcoves playing medieval music; where Jaime de Marichalar – former husband of the Infanta Elena of Spain, and board member of Dior’s owner, LVMH – posed with María de León Castillejo, Spain’s coolest influencer.
“Una noche mágica,” giggled María, attired in a brilliantly embroidered Dior flamenco slip dress. “You know, I was married in Seville Cathedral, and our reception was in this very garden. I remember Prince Charles telling me then that Windsor was the oldest royal palace in the world, 900 years old. And I said, ‘Are you kidding? This place has been here since the eighth century!’” laughed Jaime, the Lord of Tejada and former pupil of the Spanish language Yago School in Dublin.
The following night, Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri staged a truly epic cruise collection. Flamenco fantasy met French chic, with 60 frenzied Blanca Li dancers, a 30-piece orchestra directed by Alberto Iglesias playing the soundtracks of films he scored for Pedro Almodóvar, and over 100 models marching across the Baroque bridges of Seville’s grandiose Plaza de España.
Equestrian chic, Andalusian attitude and multiple references to La Madonna featured in a sacred yet sensual show staged on the opening day of Corpus Christi. Known as a feminist designer, Maria Grazia’s inspiration was Carmen Amaya, the first female flamenco star to dress like a man. On show were great riding jackets, cropped flamenco pants, perforated leather skirts and jackets or lace blouses in Baroque architectural shapes. Blanca Li’s dancers serenaded Maria Grazia as she received a standing ovation, led by Elle Macpherson, Laetitia Casta and Charithra Chandran, one of the stars of season two of Bridgerton.
Finally, I was back at work. The lockdown had been very long in fashion – four full seasons, which feels like a century in our world. But this year, major marques threw extravaganzas throughout the continent – Gucci in a medieval castle in Puglia, Valentino on Rome’s Spanish Steps, and Max Mara inside Lisbon’s greatest art collection, the Gulbenkian Foundation.
Our fashion tour of duty began with CHANEL’S Gran Prix- chic show staged in Monaco Beach Club. Models marched on the sandy shore in mechanic jumpsuits in checkered red and white wool bouclé or grey and black windowpane check, topped with trucker caps emblazoned with double C logos. Chanel’s couturier Virginie Viard even dressed a driver’s girlfriend in a bouclé jacket and metallic silk pants made in the honey gold hue of the house’s No 5 scent and climaxed the show with perfectly draped chiffon skirts and cocktails in checkered flag prints.
Tilda Swinton, Charlotte Casiraghi and Kristen Stewart in a metallic check sheath embraced Viard in the show’s backstage, the terrace of an Olympic-sized pool, located beneath Villa La Vigie, Karl Lagerfeld’s former seaside mansion and the site of Chanel’s post-show soirée. “Great to be back in a home where I’ve always loved to party!” enthused Nile Rodgers in a surprise performance as Princess Caroline of Monaco, Sofia Coppola and G-Dragon all danced to “Le Freak”, “Good Times” and “Inside Out”.
Note to male partners: Fashion plate G-Dragon dressed in endless pearl necklaces, gold bracelets and a matching powder blue cardigan and iPhone cover for Chanel. Sandwiched in between the cruise shows were the Italian and French menswear runway seasons, with the mood far more minimalist in Milan, where a then-87-year-old GIORGIO ARMANI had a stellar show of deconstructed tailoring, including cool grey linen Mao jackets, a flint-hued Nehru jacket made in a GA print, and band-collar shirts. Earning him a standing ovation from a front row of Regé-Jean Page and Jonathan Bailey – heroes of Bridgerton seasons one and two respectively.
“He’s been the greatest tailor in the world in the past 50 years,” enthused Regé-Jean, the face of the new Armani Code scent. “I would wear every single look. It was that great,” added a newly-bearded Jonathan. “Planning another Bridgerton, are you?” I asked him, who cackled, “They are planning another hundred!”
Back in Paris, the mood was euphoric at LOUIS VUITTON MENSWEAR inside the Louvre’s main courtyard, with Tuscan- style flag wavers and the 100-piece Florida A&M marching band performing on a gigantic yellow runway that rose up to the third floor windows of the museum. Monogram mania and LV emblems were everywhere in extra-large shearling work jackets, multi-pocket biker looks and warehouse jumpsuits. Kendrick Lamar, wearing a silver crown of thorns, performed live from the front row of Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake, Joel Edgerton and Naomi Campbell.
Though in our eco-conscious age, the stand-out show was DIOR MEN, with a poetic gardening collection by Kim Jones and a huge 50-metre set of 19,000 plants modelled on Granville, Christian Dior’s own family home on the Normandy coast. It was horticultural chic, from beige rural gent linen suits and gardener’s aprons to ingenious knits with embroidered grounds- man looks and bucolic intarsia sweatshirts and shorts… even if Jones, David Beckham’s preferred tailor, dressed the soccer star in a crisp double-breasted Edwardian suit for the show.
However, inevitably the runway’s biggest moments were couture in Paris, notably at Balenciaga, Schiaparelli and Dior – in a season that managed to blend florals with metallics. Chez Dior, Maria Grazia sent out densely embroidered floral dresses inspired by Ukrainian folk art; Chanel scattered sequinned verdant leaf patterns over simple white dresses; and Valentino showed gowns made of giant shantung fabric leaves.
Over at SCHIAPARELLI, designer Daniel Roseberry dreamed up a fitted dress made entirely of chains, with hung metallic flowers around the neck and endless surrealist jewellery – golden ears, noses and nipples everywhere. Visitors to Paris can witness those ideas in Shocking! The Surreal Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli, a retrospective inside the Louvre that runs until January 22nd.
The show of the season – and the hardest invite, with just 120 guests – was Balenciaga, with its blend of neoprene and precious metals.
Olivier Rousteing’s couture show as guest designer for JEAN PAUL GAULTIER displayed a tin can look culled from the perfume packaging Gaultier launched in 1993, and Giambattista Valli showed dresses of densely packed sequin cocktails that looked like mirrors.
The show of the season – and the hardest invite, with just 120 guests – was BALENCIAGA, with its blend of neoprene and precious metals. Georgian-born couturier Demna used les petites mains of the maison to ingeniously hide all the stitching of the opening seven looks made in Japanese neoprene. So the suits, redingotes and scuba dresses looked like they were poured over the models.
Instead of stars sitting front row, Demna marched them on the catwalk – Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa and Nicole Kidman glided around the salon show, with Kidman wrapped in an asymmetrical silver metallic taffeta gown. Several thousand fans outside on Avenue George V screamed in the guests, including Tracee Ellis Ross, Michelle Yeoh, Offset and Kris Jenner – who, despite looking south towards the Seine, greeted me with a wave of her arm, saying, “North,” before I realised she was presenting her young granddaughter North West, attired in Terminator boots, track pants, sweatshirt and corn rows.
…Bringing an end to another season, and what felt, after the pandemic fashion drought, like a stylistic marathon.
This article originally appeared in the Autumn issue of IMAGE Magazine.