Controversy, frivolity mark day one of Paris Fashion Week
The pioneering Black performer Josephine Baker, who left the United States to find global fame in Paris in the 1920s, was Dior’s muse for an old school spring couture collection of archetypal classicism.
With her caressing velvets and silks, embroideries, sequins and tiny silver studs, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri may not have reinvented the wheel, but she certainly embellished it beautifully on the first day on Jan. 23 of Paris Fashion Week.
Yet the event’s first day wasn’t without controversy after Dior was criticized for inviting a Russia influencer sanctioned by Ukraine. Moreover, Schiaparelli was the subject of online ire for glamorizing trophy hunting after featuring a fake lion’s head.
Lining the perfume-scented interiors of an annex inside the Rodin Museum gardens were giant images by African American artist Mickalene Thomas of Baker alongside other female Black American icons.
The stark tableaux photographs documented Baker’s extraordinary life and her many roles: As member of the French Resistance, civil rights activist and humanist as well as dancer and performer.
Although the theme created an expectation the Dior clothes themselves may offer some powerful exploration of racism or being Black, the collection itself remained very Parisian. It was only a veiled homage to the Black pioneer who fought battles against race, gender and nationality all her life.
That being said, it was admirable how many models of color walked the show — in over half the 60 looks — especially because of the fact Paris Fashion Week, and the luxury industry as a whole, have wrestled with persistent accusations of being white-centric.
Dior provoked criticism online for extending a Paris couture show invitation to a Russian TV presenter called Yana Rudkovskaya, who was sanctioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Jan. 15 for her connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other houses have reportedly refused to allow Rudkovskaya, who is an influencer, into their shows.
Rudkovskaya posted a photo of her Dior couture invitation on Instagram. Some journalists asked how many “other sanctioned Russians are attending Paris Haute Couture?”