Paris, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — Dior went back to the essential architecture of dressmaking, and the late designer's penchant for black, for a brooding display Monday of archetypally couture gowns.
Looking on inside the Parisian house's design studios on Avenue Montaigne were Gal Gadot and Shailene Woodley, who waited for the tardy couple Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, as actress Elisabeth Moss spoke to The Associated Press about women's empowerment.
Dior's designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, meanwhile, was bestowed France's highest civilian award, the Legion of Honor, shortly after the show for her contribution to French fashion.
Here are some highlights of the fall-winter 2019 couture collections in Paris.
DIOR GOES BACK TO BLACK
"I could write a book about black," Christian Dior once declared.
Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri used this as a mantra to produce a dramatic display, one that was nearly all in black and featured veiled models in couture that celebrated the power of architecture and the sculptural female form.
Black mesh and sheer catsuits exposed legs, shoulders and arms in sensual transparencies that showed off the body, while dark capes did exactly the opposite and enveloped the body in black taffeta jacquard.
"Designing a collection almost entirely in black, punctuated by rare colors that reveal its power, implies a return to fundamentals, to the foundations of haute couture," explained the house.
Flashes of white provided historic musing — such as one formless ancient Greek tunic in white silk that gained its structure from the curves of the model's body, with "Are clothes modern?" emblazoned across. So too did caryatids, stone sculptures of women that structurally hold up Greek temples, that provided the inspiration for one of the collection's key silhouettes.
Evoking architecture more literally was the final look: A naked model "wearing" a replica of Dior's atelier building made in gold leaf.
This design, which prompted chuckles from guests, was a welcome relief from what was a sometimes heavy and overly repetitive 65-look-collection.
As the star of the hit dystopian series about female servitude 'The Handmaid's Tale,' Moss had much to say on female empowerment before she graced Dior's front row.
Moss has won a Golden Globe for her performance of a woman who is captured and forced to become a handmaid because she is fertile — a cynical narrative which shines a light on society's objectification of women.
The series comes at a time when Dior has, too, shone a light on women's issues by naming its first female designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri, who has made female empowerment an emblem of recent collections.
"'The Handmaid's Tale' is part of the same movement as finally having a female designer at Dior," said Moss, on the sidelines of the show.
"We're talking more about women recently across the board and it's wonderful. Maria Grazia has an empowering vision, and Dior is so much about women themselves, rather than just the clothes," she added.
Chopra and Jonas arrived almost an hour late for the Dior show, forcing actresses such as Gadot and Woodley to wait. Upon arrival, the couple triggered a media scrum inside the already squeezed atelier space.
It provoked grumbles from many invitees.
Chopra and Jonas were traveling through Paris after attending the wedding ceremony of brother Joe Jonas and "Game of Thrones" star Sophie Turner in the south of France.
IRIS VAN HERPEN'S UNIVERSE
Season upon season, Dutch wunderkind Iris Van Herpen plunges her marveling guests into a parallel universe — one replete with creations evoking underwater mollusks, electric shocks, audio waves, and fabrics resembling interlocking parts of crystals.
On Monday, the latest chapter of her world was unveiled amid a giant halo of pearly white organic shell discs designed by American artist Anthony Howe. It set the tone for a fantastical, aquatic spectacle.
The fibers and translucence of jellyfish and deep water life were a key theme in the 19 looks.
It produced beautiful trapezoid silhouettes that blurred the lines between fashion and pure art.
One bustier dress, if it can be called that, was made of interlocking semicircles of sheer fabric with a black fibrous edge.
Its stiff collar, while organic-looking, also evoked the historic ruffs of Elizabethan England in a sublime play in contradiction.
Incredibly, Van Herpen also managed to capture the limp gravity of tentacles moving under water in a series of multicolored three-dimensional gowns with divergent, floating layers.
A watery sheen, achieved by ancient silk moiré weaving, made some guests feels as if they were several leagues under the sea.
SCHIAPARELLI'S DESIGNER DEBUT
Ever since the legendary house of Elsa Schiaparelli was relaunched in 2012, design team changes over a short space of time caused turbulence at the brand that struggled to hone a clear artistic voice.
With the appointment of its third creative director in five years, Daniel Roseberry, who was poached from Thom Browne, the brand hopes to change that.
Roseberry's debut couture collection was sassy, playful and modern — and some reasons why the house should be hopeful.
The 30 creations managed to toe the line between the Schiaparelli signatures — the shocking pink, the 30s elegance, and the touches of Surrealism — with an aesthetic that was contemporary and often very sexy.
A silk bustier dress in marbled segments of eye-popping reds, yellows and blues with sequined cups on the bust was constructed from interlocking strips of material. It flapped playfully at the bottom — part prom-queen, part clown. A long lizard earring only added to the fun.
Elsewhere, a bejeweled python adorned one female model's neck like a shawl on sheer black fabric, exposing the nipples and the vulnerability of human flesh.
CHIURI GETS LEGION OF HONOR
An emotional Chiuri was recognized for her contribution to French culture through her creative platform at Dior just hours after her couture show.
Symbolically, it was French Minister for Equality Marlene Schiappa who presented France's highest civilian honor to Chiuri during a ceremony — instead of the culture minister. Chiuri has made it her hallmark at the LVMH-owned house to trumpet her feminist roots.
Model Natalia Vodianova, who is the partner of LVMH's communications chief Antoine Arnault, told The Associated Press of her joy for Chiuri.
"It's a very happy moment. And I think it's so incredibly deserved for the way she took Dior, not only as a brand, but also as a platform," said Vodianova.
"She helped the movement toward women's equality with everything that she did."
Washington, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — The amount of ice circling Antarctica is suddenly plunging from a record high to record lows, baffling scientists.
Floating ice off the southern continent steadily increased from 1979 and hit a record high in 2014. But three years later, the annual average extent of Antarctic sea ice hit its lowest mark, wiping out three-and-a-half decades of gains — and then some, a NASA study of satellite data shows.
In recent years, "things have been crazy," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In an email, he called the plummeting ice levels "a white-knuckle ride."
Serreze and other outside experts said they don't know if this is a natural blip that will go away or more long-term global warming that is finally catching up with the South Pole. Antarctica hasn't showed as much consistent warming as its northern Arctic cousin.
"But the fact that a change this big can happen in such a short time should be viewed as an indication that the Earth has the potential for significant and rapid change," University of Colorado ice scientist Waleed Abdalati said in an email.
At the polar regions, ice levels grow during the winter and shrink in the summer. Around Antarctica, sea ice averaged 4.9 million square miles (12.8 million square kilometers) in 2014. By 2017, it was a record low of 4.1 million square miles (10.7 million square kilometers, according to the study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The difference covers an area bigger than the size of Mexico. Losing that much in just three years "is pretty incredible" and faster than anything scientists have seen before, said study author Claire Parkinson, a NASA climate scientist. Antarctic sea ice increased slightly in 2018, but still was the second lowest since 1979. Even though ice is growing this time of year in Antarctica, levels in May and June this year were the lowest on record, eclipsing 2017, according to the ice data center.
Ice melting on the ocean surface doesn't change sea level. Non-scientists who reject mainstream climate science often had pointed at increasing Antarctic sea ice to deny or downplay the loss of Arctic sea ice.
While the Arctic has shown consistent and generally steady warming and ice melt — with some slight year to year variation — Antarctica has had more ups and downs while generally trending upward. That is probably in part due to geography, Parkinson and Serreze said.
The Arctic is a floating ice cap on an ocean penned in by continents. Antarctica is just the opposite, with land surrounded by open ocean. That allows the ice to grow much farther out, Parkinson said.
When Antarctic sea ice was steadily rising, scientists pointed to shifts in wind and pressure patterns, ocean circulation changes or natural but regular climate changes like El Nino and its southern cousins. Now, some of those explanations may not quite fit, making what happens next still a mystery, Parkinson said.
Boston, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — The baggy Virgin Atlantic sweatshirt Princess Diana wore to discourage media interest in her exercise routine is for sale.
Boston-based RR Auction says the dark blue cotton-polyester sweatshirt that was a gift from airline founder Richard Branson is expected to get more than $5,000 during the online auction.
The garment features the airline's 'flying lady' logo with the words "Fly Atlantic" in white.
It is being sold by Jenni Rivett, Diana's longtime personal trainer. Diana gave Rivett several sweatshirts months before her August 1997 death.
In a letter that comes with the shirt, Rivett writes that Diana thought there were more pressing issues in the world to worry about, so wearing the same thing to every session would be "a good way to stop the media frenzy."
New Orleans, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — The Essence Festival, which draws thousands to New Orleans during the fourth of July week, is celebrating 25 years of bringing African American women of all ages together for thought-provoking conversation and performances from top musical acts.
Launched to mark the 25th anniversary of black-owned Essence magazine, the festival has become a yearly celebration to highlight excellence in business, fashion, entertainment, and, of course, music.
It is a destination vacation for African American women, which was showcased in the 2017 hit movie "Girls Trip." The movie —which starred Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish in a breakout role — centered on four longtime friends who reunited at Essence.
The festival is July 5-7 and has two parts: daytime activities and panel discussions mainly held at the convention center and nighttime music and concerts at the Superdome.
The Associated Press spoke to some performers and thought leaders who've made frequent appearances and to a relatively new performer who is moving up to the main stage this year about what they like about the festival and why they return.
MARY J. BLIGE
The Grammy Award-winning songstress is no stranger to the festival, having closed the show many times in the past.
She's scheduled to take the main stage Saturday at the Superdome.
This year, though, is extra special, she said. The festival marks 25 years and so does her album, "My Life." It's a milestone that "feels great."
"It's one of the most important albums of my career. It's when I started a relationship with my fans," she said. "I could tour on that album for the rest of my life and not make another song."
Blige said she never doubted the festival would reach the quarter-century mark.
"It's been nothing but huge since Day 1," she said. "People from all over the world and all walks of life flock to this big, black event. Everyone's coming to see what's going on, to come to New Orleans, to eat. The food down there is crazy good and there's a party every other night. There's lots of entrepreneurship around, there's gospel, there's everything. It's just phenomenal."
Blige received BET's Lifetime Achievement Award in June.
She and rapper Nas released a new single, "Thriving" in May. They both perform Saturday and will co-headline a tour that kicks off following the festival. Nas is also marking a 25th anniversary, for his debut record, "Illmatic."
REV. AL SHARPTON
Sharpton has attended and participated in every festival since its inception in 1994. And, as a result, he said he stays on his toes.
"Everywhere I go, people tell me 'I will see you at Essence,'" he said. "That forces me to think of a new speech every year."
Sharpton generally appears during the daytime activities at the convention center. Festivalgoers can attend any number of panel discussions or presentations on issues such as politics, economic wealth, health care and entrepreneurship. He said the festival has become the "central meeting place for black people, black women specifically."
"It's a celebration of who we are and the diversity of us in terms of our talents and our gifts. It's the perfect mix of entertainment and information," he said.
Sharpton recalled when the magazine's co-founder, Edward Lewis, started the project: "When I was on that first leadership panel at the first festival I thought, this was just a one-time thing."
But since then, the festival has grown from a few exhibitions to a destination for Fortune 500 companies, top lecturers, business minds and CEOs, Sharpton said.
"People plan their vacations and reunions around Essence. It's grown from just an event to almost a pilgrimage. It's the only place that you see the kinds of crowds ranging in age from grandmothers, to mothers to daughters to granddaughters," he said.
MAZE, FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY
This year the festival is paying tribute to one of its longtime stars: Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly.
For 15 years, Beverly and Maze closed the Essence Festival, often turning the Superdome floor into a sea of dancing fans. Beverly has an almost cult-like following with devoted fans who sing along with him. During a Maze performance, fans can be seen dancing in the aisles, many wearing white clothing as Beverly often does.
He says he's always amazed to see how fans react.
"They don't have to do that, but it shows they're still into us and to still be in that position to do that, I'm moved and pleased by it. To be back this year is like getting with your family again," he said.
Beverly's run at the festival ended in 2010 when a new producer decided to end the long tradition of Maze as the closer. Many fans were disappointed despite the great talent tapped to close such as Beyonce, Lionel Richie, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind and Fire. In 2015, Beverly returned for an appearance that coincided with the festival's recognition of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
On this year's final night, the festival is scheduled to pay tribute to Beverly for his lifetime contribution to music. The tribute will feature a special performance by Anthony Hamilton.
"Hearing about that, that surprised me," Beverly said. "I appreciate it though. New Orleans has had a big part to play in our receiving this. They've loved us from the beginning."
The Grammy winning singer-songwriter returns to the festival this year but moves to the main stage instead of the Superlounges — smaller venues set up in the Superdome's cavernous halls.
"I'm so excited," she said. "It's just honestly crazy but dope too because last year, people were telling me I should have been on the main stage and now I am."
H.E.R., whose real name is Gabriella Wilson, said she's looking forward to being on stage the same night as icons Blige and first lady Michelle Obama. She's also eager to sample New Orleans' famous cuisine.
"Essence is one of the places you go if you want (to) see all the beautiful black people from all over the world. It's black excellence at its finest, literally. And having it in New Orleans is the best place because the food is crazy good!"
She hopes her performance is an opportunity to expose those who may not be familiar with her music.
"Expect a lot of musicality. I will be picking up a few different instruments," she said. "It will be electric. A lot of people who haven't seen me live are in for a treat. I just plan to sing my heart out and invite them into my world."
Before the thousands of festival-goers head home Sunday, many of them gather at the convention center for a gospel service to connect spiritually.
McClurkin, a pastor and singer, has performed and hosted the service multiple times and says he's looking forward to this year's event.
"It's really devoted to us as African Americans, not just women, but to the black experience," McClurkin said. "At this point, it's got to be one of most sought after tickets in the world."
The "We Fall Down" singer said he's awed by the festival's "diversity and appreciation for ethnic accomplishment" and that the event is also a platform for gospel performers.
"It exposes us to people who may not have known us before and gives us an opportunity to minister to people from all walks of life," McClurkin said. "A major part of the festival is set aside for a Sunday morning service and people make their way to it whether they're there to see a Janet Jackson or a Beyonce, they're crammed into that hall to serve God."
Srinagar, Jul 1 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of Hindu pilgrims began the arduous trek to an icy Himalayan cave in disputed Kashmir on Monday, with tens of thousands of Indian government forces guarding roads and mountain passes.
The pilgrims, many of them barefooted ascetics, chanted hymns and rang bells as they traveled through forested areas in Kashmir's Himalayas. The worshippers approach the hallowed mountain cave, the Amarnath shrine, through two routes, a traditional one via the southern hill resort of Pahalgam and a shorter one through northeastern Baltal. Some also use helicopter services to pay quick obeisance.
The Amarnath cave is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period in summer when it is open for the pilgrims. Hindus worship a stalagmite inside the cave as an incarnation of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. The cave lies 4,115 meters (13,500 feet) above sea level.
At least 40,000 Indian police and soldiers have been deployed to guard the pilgrimage. Carrying automatic rifles and wearing flak jackets, they have set up checkpoints, barricades and temporary camps along the routes leading to the cave.
"We've made adequate and comprehensive security arrangements," said S.P. Pani, a top police officer. "We're hoping it will be an incident-free pilgrimage."
With a view of snowy peaks on their way, more than 200,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the cave during the 45-day pilgrimage. Old people and children rode ponies on Monday.
In 2017, gunmen sprayed bullets at a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims in the region, killing at least seven people, including six women, and wounding 19 others while they were returning from the cave shrine. The Indian government blamed Muslim rebels for the attack. However, separatist leaders accused Indian intelligence agencies of carrying out such attacks to sabotage their struggle for the right to self-determination.
In 2000, gunmen struck in the Pahalgam area and killed 30 people, including some local porters who carry the pilgrims' baggage on the mountain path.
The pilgrimage concludes on Aug. 15, a full-moon night that Hindus say commemorates Shiva revealing the secret of the creation of the universe.
Muslim rebels fighting for decades against Indian rule in Kashmir accuse India's Hindu majority of using the pilgrimage as a political statement to bolster its claim to the Himalayan region.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over the competing claims over the Himalayan territory since the nuclear-armed rivals gained independence from British colonialism.
In Indian-controlled Kashmir, rebel groups have been fighting for either independence or a merger with Pakistan since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.