Dior opens Paris fashion week with homage to modernising designer Marc Bohan | Paris fashion week

In 1967, Dior was the first Paris haute couture house to embrace the racy new idea, dreamed up the previous year by the whippersnapper Yves Saint Laurent, of “ready to wear” designer fashion. Marc Bohan, then the designer of Dior, correctly judged that the generation of women coming of age in the 1960s were of a different mindset from their mothers. He dispatched with individual fittings and the traditional three-month wait, and gave this new generation boutiques – named Miss Dior – where fashion could be bought off-the-peg.

The Dior show that opened this year’s Paris fashion week, staged in a white box the size of a provincial airport installed in the Tuileries Gardens, was a homage to the modernising instincts of Bohan, designer of Dior for 28 years, who died last year at the age of 97. The current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, has instincts that tend to veer left-of-centre, and it is the lesser known Bohan, rather than the famed Christian Dior, who she feels a synergy with in the Dior archives.

Maisie Williams attends the Dior show. Photograph: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

It is probably not entirely accidental that while television audiences are watching The New Look, a dramatisation of the often dubious wartime escapades of Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and their contemporaries, this Dior catwalk was emblazoned with the name Miss Dior, spray-painted in capital letters across coats, suits and handbags. Christian Dior’s French resistance heroine sister Catherine, for whom the Miss Dior perfume was named, is the most sympathetic character in the drama, so this was an opportune moment to remind a global audience of this particular member of the Dior lineage. The actor Maisie Williams, who plays Catherine, was a front row guest at the show.

But storytelling on a scale this grand operates at several levels, and the plot strand Chiuri was keen to explore backstage before her show was how Bohan, in searching for fabrics and silhouettes best suited for clothes that could accommodate different body shapes, “found a new silhouette for the modern woman. He introduced trousers, and straight jackets – because a jacket with a waist is intended to be tailored to one person, and each body is different. He was thinking about how his clothes could speak to a new generation of women.”

A model wears a creation emblazoned with the name Miss Dior. Photograph: Christophe Petit-Tesson/EPA

This translated on the catwalk into that version of Parisian chic that leans into a Rive Gauche, Gauloises-scented moodboard: tight black polo necks worn with swinging gold pendant necklaces, wide-legged denim, and gently flared trousers with matching tunic tops.

At eight days long, Paris fashion week now dwarfs those in Milan, New York and London. A bumper schedule of 108 shows and presentations reflects the pre-eminence of a city that is home to fashion’s most powerful luxury groups. The week’s talking points will centre around how Sean McGirr interprets the complex legacy of Alexander McQueen at his debut show for the label, to be staged on Saturday evening, and the first show by Chemena Kamali, newly installed after the departure of Gabriela Hearst, which will be scrutinised for what it reveals about whether the house of Chloe will retain the strong focus on sustainability that Hearst brought to the brand. The week will end with a landmark show by French fashion veteran Louis Vuitton celebrating the 10th anniversary of designer Nicolas Ghesquière.

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Anna Wintour will flex her formidable soft power by hosting a gala fundraiser for Joe Biden on Monday, and has announced that Vogue will award itself a place on the podium for the city’s Olympic Games by staging a sports-themed fashion show in the city’s Place Vendome on Sunday 23 June, before the tournament begins.

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