Dior made its runway debut in Shanghai on Saturday night with a sixties-chic Cruise collection inspired by the French New Wave. In the front row were house muses Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard. They joined LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, Dior CEO Sidney Toledano, and some 500 guests in a 150-meter Dior gray tent constructed along the Huangpu River in the historic colonial district the Bund, not far from the site where Chanel put on its pre-fall show last December.
On his third visit to China since 2002, designer John Galliano made it clear that this was not to be a dose of chinoiserie à la Dior. "I didn't really want to do 'China' at all. Not only because I have done that, but because I didn't think it was appropriate," the designer said. "I just thought it would be really fierce, really cool, to present le savoir faire français." And that he did, with a savvy blend of ready-to-wear and couture. "I was just trying to recapture that excitement that was happening at that time in Paris, which is very similar to what is happening in Shanghai today," he said.
After a sneak preview of the Lady Blue Shanghai film directed by David Lynch and starring Cotillard, the show started with a flash of lights and dance music mixed with live accompaniment by the Shanghai Sinfonietta.
Jean Seberg marine stripes, gamine trenches, and fedoras teamed with tapering, cropped pants marked a series of boyish looks that included a Jean-Paul Belmondo-inspired three-piece suit. On the other end of the masculine-feminine spectrum, there were coquettish minidresses in candy colors adorned with bows.
House codes like the rose were everywhere, from prints on shift coats to choker necklaces and handbags that accompanied almost every look. Mr. Dior's beloved Prince of Wales check became new on Bar jackets and trenches, woven as it was to echo the caning motif on the Lady Dior bags. Meanwhile, a Bardot-esque pale-blue gingham dress was cut from innovative, almost weightless organza, and flashes of superlight leather, like Karlie Kloss' sculptured opening number in shocking pink, added a frisson of sex appeal.
On the couture front, it was trademark Galliano romance: corseted lace dresses and grand ball gowns showered in embroidery, including a candy-pink dégradé silk organza showstopper that just might seduce a new generation of privileged Chinese clients.
The show was the climax to a two-day extravaganza that included the reopening of Dior's Peter Marino-designed Plaza 66 boutique, now twice its former size, and the launch of the new fragrance Escale à Shanghai, as well as a grand exhibition of archival clothing, art, and films. But at the after-party, as guests partied to the live sounds of Kelis against the shimmering backdrop of the iconic Pearl Tower, it was clear that brand Dior has its eyes on the future.