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Brigitte Macron Backs Students, Dior’s Spa Sets Sail, Antwerp’s New Head

·8-min read

BEST IN CLASS: A blond bob in the front row had guests atwitter ahead of the inaugural BA show at the Institut Français de la Mode on Monday.

It was France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron, clad in a white Louis Vuitton blazer paired with skinny black trousers and sporting a matching black-and-white Prada bag. She took her seat between the fashion school’s general manager Xavier Romatet and newly elected chairman Sidney Toledano.

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Before the show, the first lady took a tour of the students’ exhibition, listening intently as they explained their work and offering praise to the soon-to-be graduates.

For this first show, the crème de la crème of the Paris fashion firmament turned out in force, ranging from luxury executives including president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS Bruno Pavlovsky, Kering’s chief sustainability and institutional affairs officer Marie-Claire Daveu and LVMH executive vice president of human resources and synergies Chantal Gaemperle; to designers Isabel Marant and Julie de Libran.

They took in the 32 collections selected out of the class of 71 third-year bachelor students that is set to graduate this summer. Students referenced a wide range of topics, like Black joy, questions around masculinity, ’70s automobiles, the French student protests of 1968, familial memories, body perception, material shortages and the ubiquity of data exchanges.

One student used millinery techniques and hats to create sculptural summery gowns. Another imagined Paris turned into a heat-baked desert, with inhabitants turned into nomads lugging water reserves around. Silhouettes from disparate materials were particularly popular, as they spliced sports jersey together, coated textiles to sculptural stiffness or created footwear entirely of 3D printed elements.

A good number tried their hand at knitwear, a particular focus at IFM thanks to its expansive studio and equipment, turning out spidery psychedelic layers or organic volumes that slid down the body.

The final lineup was a mashup of inspirations in larger-than-life versions, including a bright yellow tableau composed of a student carrying another to mimic religious Pieta paintings of the Renaissance — a revisited classic already turned into further creative fodder over Instagram. — LILY TEMPLETON

DREAM BOAT: Dior is taking its Cheval Blanc Paris white-glove spa experience in a new direction — to the River Seine — with a well-being cruise starting June 29.

The boat extravaganza is intended to help kick off couture season, which begins on July 3. It also winks to the Bains de la Samaritaine, a luxurious, high-tech floating bathhouse of the 19th century, which was moored by Pont Neuf, directly in front of the department store. The bathhouse had about 100 treatment rooms that served up cosmetic and medicinal water treatments, steam baths and hydrotherapy options.

Pont Neuf is just a stone’s throw from where the Cheval Blanc Paris hotel is currently located, in the minus-one floor of the Samaritaine building, which reopened about one year ago.

The two-hour cruise, which runs through July 13, is to offer a 60-minute face or body treatment to five passengers at a time in its four suites.

A rendering of a treatment room on the Dior Spa Cheval Blanc Paris boat. - Credit: Courtesy of Parfums Christian Dior
A rendering of a treatment room on the Dior Spa Cheval Blanc Paris boat. - Credit: Courtesy of Parfums Christian Dior

Courtesy of Parfums Christian Dior

The Dior spa boat is to be moored at the Port Debilly, which faces the Eiffel Tower.

The upper deck will be decorated with rattan furniture and parasols in blue toile de Jouy, a pattern of bucolic scenes that is iconic for Dior and that was reinterpreted by the house’s artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Down the next two levels are a lounge and four treatment rooms, including three singles and one double.

Dior conceived an exclusive treatment menu for this cruise. As the boat glides through the water, people can choose to have a face treatment or a body massage. One face treatment is inspired by the rose from Granville, where Christian Dior’s childhood home stands, and another uses Yquem sap, found in Dior’s L’Or de Vie skin care.

In yin and yang fashion, a body treatment is relaxing, while the other is energizing. Prices for these range from 670 euros for the body massage to 750 euros for the face treatment and 1,500 euros for face or body care treatments for two people simultaneously. Meanwhile, the Pilates cruise is priced at 150 euros. — JENNIFER WEIL

NEW IN ANTWERP: The Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts has a new creative director of its fashion department.

Performance artist and designer Brandon Wen will take over the top post from Walter Van Beirendonck, who has been at the helm since 2007.

Brandon Wen - Credit: Akhil Babu / Courtesy Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp
Brandon Wen - Credit: Akhil Babu / Courtesy Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

Akhil Babu / Courtesy Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

The academy touted the appointment of Wen, who is American, as “international, interdisciplinary and innovative.”

“I am audacious as hell as a person and an artist as I intend to be as a teacher and creative director,” Wen said. “I will focus on the traditions of creativity and artistry that made me fall in love with this academy. At the intersection of fantasy and reality, we will create another generation of designers and artists focused on authenticity, creativity and fun, that have the tools and chutzpah to make a space for themselves in the world, setting that example myself. We will grow together and redefine our sense of wonder and beauty in fashion.”

The Los Angeles-born and -bred Wen previously worked in Paris at Chanel-owned Maison Lemarié; for Michèle Lamy and Rick Owens, and the MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp. He is a graduate of the Antwerp Royal Academy with an MFA in fashion, and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in the U.S.

He was awarded the Challenge the Fabric sustainability award at London Fashion Week, where he was recognized as a talent intent on changing the fashion industry from the inside out. In addition, he was an organizer and teacher at the international Arts of Fashion Foundation.

“Together with his team of teachers and with the colleagues of the academy, Wen will further put the fashion department on the international map of fashion and strengthen it for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” said academy head Johan Pas, who served as chair of the selection committee. “[He] convinced us with his generous creativity, strong drive, fresh ideas and his great connecting power.”

The Royal Academy is known for nurturing young talent. Graduates of the school include Balenciaga’s Demna, Diesel and Y/Project’s Glenn Martens, Martin Margiela, Peter Pilotto, Haider Ackermann, Kris Van Assche, Jan-Jan Van Essche and the famed Antwerp Six of Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee and Van Beirendonck, who continues to show his menswear brand in Paris, with the next show scheduled for June 22.

Wen will start his tenure as the creative director of the fashion department this September. — RHONDA RICHFORD

PRADA PROGRAM: In April, the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab with artist Theaster Gates and Prada Group revealed inaugural awardees for the three-year collaborative program shaped to support designers of color — across fashion, footwear, jewelry, culinary, visual and fine arts, as well as architecture and product design — and to amplify their work.

Gates and the awardees attended the Prada show on Sunday, clearly excited about the opportunity, posing together for photos to capture the moment.

The students who are part of the Prada-backed lab program with Theaster Gates at the Prada men’s spring 2023 show. - Credit: Aitor Rosas Sune/WWD
The students who are part of the Prada-backed lab program with Theaster Gates at the Prada men’s spring 2023 show. - Credit: Aitor Rosas Sune/WWD

Aitor Rosas Sune/WWD

“You know, the designers are between 25 and 53 so they are actually a broad cohort of professional designers and emerging designers, and it feels amazing to see them in the middle of one of the most important fashion moments of the year,” said Gates. “The first thing that seems to really matter is that Miuccia [Prada] believes in artists and she believes in great design.”

He said that his friendship with the designer “made it really easy” to develop the project, close to his heart as it allows “other people to have the opportunity for great artistic and design opportunity the same way I have. Watching Prada step up to the plate of diversity has been one of the fulfilling things of the last several years.” He characterized the project as “life-changing,” for the designers, “closer to fulfilling their dreams.”

The 14 designers from around the world were handpicked “for their extraordinary creative potential” by Miuccia Prada and the late designer Virgil Abloh, before his premature death last November.

The designers will receive financial support to further develop existing endeavors or for new and innovative projects, as well as access to a kind of creative think tank designed to foster further creative development. The Lab — a partnership between the design and manufacturing arm of Theaster Gates Studio, Dorchester Industries, as well as art and neighborhood transformation platform Rebuild Foundation (also founded by Gates) and Prada — sits on Chicago’s South Side, and annual activations in New York City and Los Angeles will allow the design cohort to present their work to leading organizations. — LUISA ZARGANI

EVER EASTWARD: Valentino has joined the fray in the Hamptons.The Italian luxury brand has opened a 2,990-square-foot boutique on Main Street in East Hampton, New York.

The two-story store features midcentury rattan furniture, sisal carpet, antique tuareg rugs and bamboo shades.

Valentino Boutique in East Hampton, New York. - Credit: Courtesy
Valentino Boutique in East Hampton, New York. - Credit: Courtesy


The first collection on display will be the Valentino Escape 2022, a capsule lineup inspired by select archival motifs of the brand that have been reimagined. It features three prints, two from 1966 and one from 1970, united that have been reproduced on caftans, swimwear, flowy dresses and kimonos for women and Bermuda shorts, shirts, sweatshirts and T-shirts for men.

In addition to the Escape collection, the store carries all men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, Valentino Garavani bags, shoes and accessories. — JEAN E. PALMIERI

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