PARIS — Just as the United Nations General Assembly’s session began in New York, and President Trump met up with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Gucci convened its own international summit of sorts in a nightclub-turned-theater in Paris, under the leadership of its secretary general (sorry, creative director), Alessandro Michele.
In the once-abandoned environs of Le Palace, down the aisles of plush brown carpets, he brought together nerds and divas, Disney and Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin rockers and Josephine Baker boogiers. He mixed them in with sequined starlets and Velvet Underground backpackers; introduced them with a film clip that combined Shakespeare and Italian experimental cinema; and set them moving to the distorted tunes of Maria Callas, helicopters and sirens. He gave them a little time out to listen to Jane Birkin, a British expat in France, serenading everyone with a live rendition of “Baby Alone in Babylone.”
And he dressed them in his all-at-once wardrobe of Lurex, feathers, G-logo canvas, leather, tennis sweaters, ruffled lounge-singer shirts, jock straps, Chinoiserie, shine, cherry prints (you name it, boys and girls no matter) like an all-star geek glamourama, the better to reconcile their multiple differences. To try to make order out of disorder, bridge high culture and low culture, demonstrate the beauty in difference and the harmony that can come from culture clash, and so on.
Gucci unites the world with the language of clothes! Let no one say Mr. Michele doesn’t have big ambitions, or the vision to make them come true.
It’s just that he’s starting to seem more like a cult leader than a fashion diplomat. He well and truly upended the old order when he arrived, shooing sex out in favor of emotion, prioritizing the values of vintage over the jet set. He’s got the podium. Now instead of indulging in the same baroque rhetoric, he has to figure out where he’s going to go with it. And that doesn’t mean just changing show cities, as he did this season — though that did cause a bit of a cross-border kerfuffle.
Christian Dior, the vaunted French brand that had recently claimed the honor of opening the French shows, was not entirely happy that Gucci had decided to abandon its usual place on the Milan schedule to invade home turf, and in a fit of national pique leapfrogged forward, starting its show earlier in the day to keep its pride of place. And so the curtain came up on the final leg of ready-to-wear in a cavernous chamber constructed to the house’s specifications at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, the racetrack on the fringes of Paris. The better to give a platform to a manifesto on liberation and the body by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s women’s wear artistic director.
Enlisting the help of the Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal and eight dancers, Ms. Chiuri set her collection amid a powerful display of calibrated movement that gave proof to her theory that, as she said backstage before the show, dance is “a language without words that speaks of freedom,” one that is connected to the past and classical rules, but also tries to rewrite them for the modern world.
That this also happens to be the goal of fashion and, in particular, of Dior, was the point. And though sometimes it was hard to concentrate on the clothes for the performance, as petals rained down and the dancers writhed and flowed across the floor like one harmonic organism (and the models did their best to avoid them), it was well made.
Eschewing her more polemical feminism for leotard-like body suits instead of her usual playsuits, Ms. Chiuri layered on Isadora Duncan dresses of draped jersey, macramé’d tulle tea frocks, combined it all with faded denim and folkloric work wear, and then brought on the unforced romance of tie-dyed over-embroidered florals and minutely layered feather appliqués.
With this, she negotiated her way forward, unlike Simon Porte Jacquemus, who seems to be stuck in an increasingly narrow French Riviera rut. Beachy slip dressing dangled lavish fringe, slithery silk knits plunged in deep vees at the breastbone and were slashed high on one thigh, and statement-making (if entirely impractical) super-sized raffia bags and cool costume-jeweled heels accessorized it all.
Mr. Jacquemus is often discussed as one of the leaders of a new generation of French designers; another is Marine Serre, who owes a great debt to Martin Margiela for her one-off garments smartly upcycled from fancy toweling, Formula One castoffs and key chains. But who also has an ability to marry the strength of sneaker speed with the niceties of the cocktail hour; to connect the crescent moon spandex bodysuit to the sculpted pantsuit the better to appeal to a different, more multifaceted constituency, as this collection, entitled “hardcore couture,” showed (“Futurewear” is her rallying cry, and it’s not inappropriate).
If Mr. Jacquemus is going to make it off the backbenches to speechify on the floor, he needs to extend his range.