Concept-art cathedral Christian Dior
One felt a little like genuflecting entering the stage set of Christian Dior on Tuesday, when the house’s women’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri staged her latest feminist fashion opus, in a tent in the Tuileries done up like a concept-art cathedral.
The first major show of this fall’s nine-day Paris Fashion Week, Dior’s display was presented on a dank afternoon and in an all-black interior show space illuminated by giant light boxes that mimicked the shape of Gothic windows. All dreamed up by Lucia Marcucci, a contemporary artist inspired by the works of Piero della Francesca and Georges de La Tour.
It also boasted a particularly dramatic soundtrack – a dozen women singing a variation on traditional Corsican chanting, created by Lucia Ronchetti. A group named Sequenza 9.3, based near Paris, and led by Catherine Simonpietri. Singing a cappella in a classy cathedral adding to the sense of ceremony, or what Chiuri called “this fashion ritual.”
Despite the reduced numbers of guests - barely 350 people, where Dior often invites four times as many - this was a full collection, with a total of 81 looks where the key idea was the patchwork of fabrics and the intermingling of cultures.
The spark for this collection was Chiuri’s meeting with Marcucci, and her discussion of an unrealized project Vetrata di poesia visiva,meaning Visual Poetry in Stained Glass. Each actual frame in Dior’s sacred setting captured words and reflections on women, and great works of Renaissance and modern art featuring women.
It opened with some a bold new silhouettes – a series of ikat paisley pattern coats. So enamored of the fabric was Chiuri, she even showed ikat shorts and knit T-shirts. All cut in a forgiving silhouette yet a still a sensual one.
Chiuri even made a mini ikat coat dress, cut well up the thigh, after she discovered in the house’s archives an image of a collab between Monsieur Dior and a magazine in Japan in 1957. A sort of figurine in three dimensions of the Bar Jacket and a totally rethought New Look.
“It was a sketch whose construction was completely different to what Monsieur Dior would create in Paris, a jacket that one uses at home. Dior was born in 1947 with couture, which is about realizing one of kind clothes for a specific body. But I want to design clothes to adapt to all kinds of bodies and feelings about our selves, so softer and less stiff materials,” expounded Chiuri in a post-show Zoom.
Hence softer and light materials – linen and cotton and knits. And the fascination with chiné materials from France and Italy, mixed up with Indonesian ikats. “A dialogue between two fabrics in a collage to create a very personal wardrobe,” underlined the Rome-born designer.
Chiuri also riffed on the idea of an idealized academy for women – whose members include Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag and Simone de Beauvoir. Sending out poetic looks for these academicians – from wrapped tunic dresses in semi-sheer chiffon to a revamped classic Dior men’s shirt, over loose silk pants. Even the cast seemed more relaxed, with abundant hair blown out in locks and tresses.
“I think now our relationship with clothes is completely different from in the past. We have less public life and more private life. With the pandemic we have a different relationship with our body, to take care of it and protect it. And the relationship with clothes is more private and more intimate. We are living a moment of social distancing which can be depressing. So people need fashion to dialogue with themselves to feel better,” argued the Dior couturier.
Though steeped in historical references, Dior kept things contemporary, live-streaming the show and, in a clever debut, showed its cathedral show live on TikTok too.
“We are very happy to be showing our latest collection in Paris, in solidarity with the other brands also taking part in the city’s celebrated fashion week, an event that has played a key role in the history of our House, ever since Monsieur Dior unveiled his revolutionary New Look in 1947. Unfortunately, due to the current situation, fewer people are able to travel and access to the show will be additionally restricted. Which is why we are pleased to team up with TikTok for the live broadcast of this unique event, allowing us to connect people and to reach future fashion audiences… who will be able to experience the show firsthand from the comfort of home,” explained Dior CEO Pietro Beccari.
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