Charlize Theron and boyfriend Sean Penn look cosy at Raf Simons' Christian Dior show

(From left) US actor Sean Penn and girlfriend South African actress Charlize Theron, French CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnault and his wife, pianist Helene Arnault, and former companion of France's President Valerie Trierweiler at the Christian Dior 2014/20
(From left) US actor Sean Penn and girlfriend South African actress Charlize Theron, French CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnault and his wife, pianist Helene Arnault, and former companion of France's President Valerie Trierweiler at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi poses upon arrival at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi poses upon arrival at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
French actress Marion Cotillard (centre), Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi (third from right) and CEO of Dior Couture Sidney Toledano (right) attend Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHO
French actress Marion Cotillard (centre), Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi (third from right) and CEO of Dior Couture Sidney Toledano (right) attend Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
French actress Marion Cotillard poses upon arrival at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
French actress Marion Cotillard poses upon arrival at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
South African actress Charlize Theron and boyfriend US actor Sean Penn upon arrival at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
South African actress Charlize Theron and boyfriend US actor Sean Penn upon arrival at the Christian Dior 2014/2015 Haute Couture Fall-Winter collection fashion show in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Actors Sean Penn and Charlize Theron before the French fashion house Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015 fashion show by Belgian designer Raf Simons in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Actors Sean Penn and Charlize Theron before the French fashion house Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015 fashion show by Belgian designer Raf Simons in Paris on July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - As Paris Haute Couture week gathered pace on its second day, Raf Simons offered a walk through history at Christian Dior, with a mix of 18th century-inspired dresses with side hoops and embroidered masculine court coats.

The designer said he was searching for a modern interpretation of fashion codes from centuries past for his fifth haute couture collection since he was appointed Dior's chief designer in 2012 to replace John Galliano.

The show at the Rodin museum, staged in a gigantic round room with walls decked with white orchids, opened with a series of pale silk dresses with panniers, the dramatic side hoops first introduced by the Spanish court and immortalised in the paintings of Velazquez.

The collection moved on to long dark court jackets with embroidered collars resembling those worn at the court of Louis XIV. Bright stilettos brought modern flair to the looks, while handbags, one of Dior's biggest products, were notably absent.

"Raf asked himself how 18th century fashion could be re-interpreted with today's codes," Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano told Reuters after the show. "He looked at it not from the point of view of today, not one of a museum."

Other striking dresses included 1920s-inspired embroidered or printed cocktail dresses and long woollen coats with slightly bouffant wrists.

On the front row were French actress Marion Cotillard, the brand's ambassador for its bags, and South African-born star Charlize Theron, the face of Dior's J'Adore perfume, with her boyfriend, actor Sean Penn.

Asked what he thought of the collection after Theron praised Simons effusively, Penn deadpanned: "I just follow her."

Also seen were Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi and French actresses Chiara Mastroianni, Isabelle Huppert and Marisa Berenson.

The ex-girlfriend of French President Francois Hollande, Valerie Trierweiler, used her front row seat to rekindle media attention to the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamists more than two months ago, sporting a T-shirt that read: "Bring back our girls."

"I find it so amazing that everybody got mobilised for them two months ago and now nobody is talking about them, it is as if we have forgotten about them," Trierweiler told Reuters.

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