PARIS — Celebrities such as Lupita Nyong'o and Emily Blunt sparkled in the heat at Christian Dior's vivid couture show, hosted in a timeless conservatory in Paris.
It was the highlight of Monday's fall-winter 2015-16 Paris Couture Week shows, which also included Giambattista Valli, Ralph & Russo, and Schiaparelli.
DIOR CELEBRITIES HOLD COURT
Lupita Nyong'o looked ravishing in a short, cherry red Dior couture dress Monday, and was at a loss for words on entering Christian Dior's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" show set inside the Rodin Museum. Guests ventured with trepidation on entering the huge, abstract painted conservatory garden that featured myriad multicolored panels — and some even tripped on the giant colored fruit scattered around the floor.
"It's really cool," the actress said, looking around in amazement from her spot next to U.S. Vogue Editor Anna Wintour. "It's so incredible. I think I need to take a moment!"
Emily Blunt — in a simple, white knee-length Dior gown — was equally amazed.
"This is just extraordinary. This is kind of why I would walk from London to Paris to see this show. I'm so excited," she said.
The only thing she regretted about her trip was a lack of sufficient planning for France's soaring temperatures, which have recently hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
"I mean, I fry like an egg," she said. "So I'm feeling like I should have put on more sunscreen. Or a higher factor."
Dior's sweltering conservatory decor may well have contributed to the over-heating.
DIOR TIME MACHINE
In a surreal garden setting, Dior designer Raf Simons wove his creative needle in and out through different centuries. That produced an imaginative time-travel of a couture show, which riffed on the styles of the Flemish Masters, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The large fruit props on the runway conjured up scenes from historic still-life oil paintings.
Long diaphanous column silhouettes in chiffon, like medieval undergarments, floated by elegantly alongside gowns with high-cinched waists and wide, billowing sleeves that mirrored the old Flemish styles. Some bejeweled net gilets were worn on the torso, evoking chainmail in a beautiful touch.
The sense of chic time-travel was further heightened with delicate dots and patterns on the fabrics — designs that evoked the French Impressionists and the technique of Pointillism associated with artists like Georges Seurat.
The coats were the highest point of this strong collection, with one standout: a flame-red coat with beautifully large tubular cuffs.
ELSA SCHIAPARELLI'S THEATRICAL DELIGHTS Celebrity guests including Meg Ryan were swept away to the glamour of 1930s theatre life at Bertrand Guyon's debut collection for Schiaparelli.
And what better a setting than to start exploring the theatricality of the great couturier Elsa? Famed for inventing shocking pink and having collaborations with Surrealists like Salvador Dali, Coco Chanel's hated rival Schiaparelli was one of the greatest and most colorful Parisian designers of the '20s and '30s. The house was recently revived.
In an impressive recreated theater, Guyon's models harked from another era. Fastidiously embellished '30s Orientalist satin jackets had softly square shoulders. Silk "jabot" collars and voluminous "Duster" coats wafted by with exaggerated pockets, alongside bejeweled eye, star and key lock decorations.
Guyon even referenced the mania for Grecian looks in Schiaparelli's heyday in a couple of diaphanous column dresses with flashes of gold.
Not all the theatrical exuberance worked, especially one overly clashing multicolored mink coat. But Guyon is certainly moving the house in a welcome, more coherent direction since the departure last year of designer Marco Zanini.
GIAMBATTISTA VALLI IS A COUTURE ARTIST
Italian designer Valli made a deft play with shape in his highly feminine, highly organic collection, which showed rare artistry.
The devil was in the detail.
Dropped hemlines sported upside-down tutu silhouettes in monochrome tulle, and, elsewhere, a plain black dress was given a fashion-forward boost with a billowing black feather section that shot out vertically down, out of the skirt.
Swirling organic decorations in embroidered coats merged visually with beautiful 20-centimeter (8-inch) tear-drop-shaped earrings that defined many of the show's best looks.
Valli has a delicate touch. In some of the 48-piece-show's more feminine gowns, embroidered flowers in orange and pale purple graced the bust and hips of full organza skirts, as if the wind had just blown them from a nearby tree or bush.
RALPH & RUSSO DON'T DO THINGS BY HALF
Even before their first on-calendar couture show in Paris last year, Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo already boasted celebrity clients, including Angelina Jolie and Beyonce.
Now, just two seasons in, the Ralph & Russo collection has been moved into a highly prized, visible slot just after Dior, right in the middle of the couture week calendar.
It's quite a coup — and shows how the up-and-coming British house certainly doesn't do things by half.
Designer Ralph also works creatively by this philosophy, as showcased by Monday's no-holds-barred glamor.
Split dresses, Balkan-style embroideries, huge satin trains, a traffic-stopping gold bustier gown with exaggerated floor-sweeping panels in the skirt, a pink pearl feathered cape — and one coat-dress that was so embellished, it looked like an ornate lace curtain.
While there seemed to be no common theme linking the varied looks — it all made for real couture drama.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP