Dior: Sporting fashion feminism with a '60s twist
Leave it to Maria Grazia Chiuri to invent a new take on her feminist fashion with an intensely sporty, hyper graphic Dior collection for next spring, unveiled Tuesday in Paris, the first full day of the nine-day Paris Fashion Week.
Staged before a packed house of 1,200 people inside a custom-made tent, built on top of the main octagonal pool of the Tuileries, in a fresh example of Dior’s power in Paris and France.
As in several recent shows, Chiuri referenced the Rome of her youth, were artists and designers would congregate in the legendary Piper Club, a Roman youth-quake party space located physically and historically just past the 1950s Dolce Vita and its key thoroughfare – Via Veneto.
Chiuri also evoked the key name of Marc Bohan, the Dior designer whom she has most referenced, apart from the founder that is. Riffing on Bohan’s Slim Look collection of 1961, albeit taking it somewhere every new.
However, editors exiting the show also mentioned the names Cardin, Courreges and Mary Quant – reflecting the fundamentally optimistic mood in this Dior collection. But if the silhouette was very strict, the embellishments were indulgent.
Moreover, half this Dior collection came with a sporty twist – like a quintet boxing outfits in electric blue, shocking pink and mint green, with ribbed waistbands reading Dior Vibe; silk baggy boxer shorts and athletic bras. In effect, the clothes had 60s silhouettes while the palette featured 80s hues.
“Monsieur had a very limited color palette, mainly gray, navy blue and black. This collection certainly does not,” chuckled Chiuri, in a pre-show backstage discussion with editors.
Instead Grazia’s gals marched in patent leather knee-high boots with bitter lemon or bright orange logos with double semi-circle logos. She almost went hip-hop halfway through in huge white painter’s pants and jackets or safari jackets all finished with images fantastical tropical plants and wild animals.
In effect, few designers can blend in a brand DNA as Chiuri, creating matelassé nylon boleros in Dior’s geometric cannage; or here radical reinvention of toile de jouy.
“I wanted to take the toile de jouy tradition of Dior somewhere new. Toile de jouy often features animals, so I thought let’s free them and take them out of picturesque,” she said.
Hence, a menagerie of lion, cheetahs, crocodiles and zebras all growled and leapt over primary color grids and squares. Seen on sequined minis, party macs and mini cocktails.
Not that there wasn’t plenty of black, like precise serge suits with double-breasted bar jackets and nipped in bubble skirts; or little black dresses cut well up the thigh.
Plus, the designer developed a new product category, the rubber wellington boot laced up at the front.
Underlining her supreme self-confidence, Chiuri picked a wantonly obscure Calabrian artist, Ana Paparatti, to collaborate in this show. Paparatti’s themes of the absurdity of the human predicament and how games open up one’s imagination lead to a giant circular puzzle of a centerpiece, with 12-foot wide steps, where each model ascended and descended before making their tour of the catwalk.
Paparatti’s huge phrases like Le jeu que n’existe pas hung over the audience. Though the line, Il Gioco del Nonsense, or The Game of Nonsense, did look a little out of place hanging over Dior’s patron and Europe’s richest man, the very nonsensical Bernard Arnault, who sat front row.
Unlike at every big show in London or Milan, where social distancing and masks were strictly enforced, at Dior’s show the audience was practically rubbing shoulders.
“Well, it is a total folly is to try create a performance in a fashion show. But in the end, every fashion show is a performance, and you have to play on that. Not every artist I have worked with is very well known, what counts is they inspire me, as Anna’s work has for the past few years,” stressed Chiuri, in a black tuxedo jacket, with jelled-back blonde hair, smoky eyes and fingers covered in Codagnato rings.
All told an extremely graphic show, even if the key element of the tailoring was always the image of the bar jacket. However, what will make this collection influential is the punchy and plucky sense of sport, and the way athleticism has inspired women, especially today. When one editor noted that it was impossible to imagine Monsieur Dior even actually attending a boxing match, Chiuri responded:
“Absolutely! But sport has played a great role in the emancipation of women. I think we need to remember that women have had to fight to play their favorite sports. Even to get into the Olympics or so many world championships.
"And that fight still goes on today. There are still many countries where women are still not even allowed to play sport!” she sighed.
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