Cruise collection at Panathenaic stadium includes pieces inspired by contemporary Greece

The 2,000-year-old Panathenaic stadium in Athens was able to hold 70,000 on marble seats for the first modern Olympics in 1896. So there was plenty of room in the front row at Dior’s catwalk show at the venue this week, where the guest list was capped at 400.

Despite most international buyers, editors and clients watching from home on their laptops, Dior’s Cruise collection was a blockbuster live event. The brand was keen to point out that the ancient stadium made for a responsible choice of venue, being well-ventilated and spacious. It was also undeniably grand, especially when backlit by fireworks and soundtracked by a full orchestra. A mostly Greek and Italian audience were joined by the Greek president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and the actor Anya Taylor-Joy.

The catwalk show remains fashion’s most powerful lever for generating attention and prestige. For luxury brands who are watching profits dwindle – and observing with envy, as the cult leggings label Lululemon announces 88% revenue growth in the first quarter of this year – there is a strong business case for keeping the catwalk alive.

But there is more at stake here than luxury brand profits and designer egos. Catwalk shows are symbolic of fashion’s identity as a creative art as well as a business. They give fashion a voice in wider conversations. It is in this spirit that Kerby Jean-Raymond, the first Black American designer to show at Paris haute couture, will next month livestream his Pyer Moss catwalk show from Villa Lewaro, the elegant Hudson River estate built by Madam CJ Walker, the African American entrepreneur who was America’s first self-made female millionaire.

Now designers are pulling out all the stops to lure hearts and minds away from trainers and drawstring waists and back to dressing up. Dior’s Athens spectacular is just one of a raft of upcoming fashion blockbusters. Earlier this week, Louis Vuitton staged and filmed a space-tourism themed catwalk show outside Paris, without a live audience. Max Mara are taking their catwalk to the Italian island of Ischia next week, while Valentino and Saint Laurent have announced catwalk shows in Venice in July.

For the Dior designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri, each catwalk collection is “an immense atelier for research and imagination. For a creative person, it is a beautiful thing to do, an opportunity to collaborate”.

Continue reading…