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Power scarves and punk elegance for Dior and Saint Laurent’s strong women

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Dior and Saint Laurent both combined nostalgia with homages to strong, independent women as the two French fashion giants presented their latest collections in Paris on Tuesday.

Under a giant surreal flower made of fluorescent textiles, Dior offered a softer reworking of its classic New Look from the 1950s.

A few hours later, Saint Laurent drew on very different traditions, with golden chandeliers, tinkling piano music — and the giant shoulder pads and aviator shades of a 1980s fever dream.

Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri said she was particularly inspired by three early clients of Dior: his sister Catherine, who was a Resistance fighter and businesswoman who refused to marry; the muse of the existentialists Juliette Greco and the “tough-as-leather” singing icon Edith Piaf.

“In addition to being very elegant, they had a bit of a punk attitude,” she said ahead of the show.

To the sounds of Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”, the new collection softened the rigid lines of the New Look’s fitted jackets with mid-length skirts and dresses, floral motifs and more flexible fabrics.

“It creates something which adapts to every body and allows a reinterpretation of the 1950s into something much softer and more personal,” said Chiuri.

Power scarves

At Saint Laurent, the vibe was much more about classic evening wear, but the professionals in the audience were impressed by designer Anthony Vacarello’s ability to add a modern twist.

“Anthony Vacarello did it again,” said Simon Longland, director of buying for London’s Harrods department store. “A strong and powerfully feminine collection — no one is messing with this Saint Laurent woman!”

On display were billowing tops in silk and chiffon, slit pencil skirts — and many examples of the extreme 80s power-shouldered blazers, which Longland said were “guaranteed to be on the must-have list for the season”.

“We may also have seen the invention of the ‘Power Scarf’,” he added.

Despite the very different vibe, that chimed well with Chiuri’s vision of a “strong and independent” Dior women, breaking with her image as “romantic and fragile”.

One big difference is the heels.

Saint Laurent’s models were all teetering atop razor-sharp talons.

Chiuri has largely refused to include them on feminist grounds, though they have started to sneak into recent collections — this time in a twisted question-mark shape.

“Personally, I hardly ever wear them,” she said. “But for some occasions, I like to wear heels, though not too excessive.”

Among the celebrity guests were actors including Charlize Theron and star-of-the-moment Bella Ramsey, from hit show “The Last of Us”.

The giant flower overhead, which looked somewhat like a trippy octopus, was the work of Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, who said she was inspired by Catherine Dior — “a woman who was strong and sensitive”. — AFP

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