Dior's show at Paris Fashion Week on Tuesday struck a sombre tone, with designer Maria Grazia Chiuri telling AFP her focus on combining "beauty and protection" was apt for a time of war.
The collection was put together long before the Russian military began bombarding Ukraine last week.
But with Dior's models sporting a range of protective gear -- from shoulder pads to airbag corsets to tops that looked distinctly like bulletproof vests -- it was hard not to think of the news from eastern Europe.
Even before the Ukraine conflict, "the world was already at war", said Chiuri, Dior's artistic director for women, ahead of the show.
"Covid was another form of war. We have all experienced some very difficult months," she said.
"There is a lot of reflection, in these difficult times, about how to combine beauty, aesthetics and protection."
The 58-year-old Italian designer said her latest creations were aimed at finding technical solutions that can be more functional for women's bodies.
They included a high-tech reworking of Christian Dior's most iconic creation, the Bar jacket.
In collaboration with an Italian motorbike accessories firm, D-Lab, the new jacket has its own internal heating system, combined with padded hips that give it a hypersexualised, futuristic look.
"Clothes are themselves a form of protection... they reassure us. That aspect is very present in what I do -- emotional protection as well as protection in its proper sense," she said.
A committed feminist, Chiuri sees the current crisis as further proof of the failings of a male-dominated society.
"The problem is cultural and patriarchal. There must be more women in decision-making positions. There would be fewer wars," she said.
The autumn-winter shows were supposed to mark Paris Fashion Week's return to near-normal, with almost all labels back to holding public events as pandemic restrictions ease across Europe.
But the war in Ukraine has cast a pall, with organisers issuing a statement on Monday urging attendees to experience the shows "with solemnity, and in reflection of these dark hours".(AFP)