It’s not every day you enter a fashion house to witness its creative director wax lyrical about corporatism, wearability and functionality. All those words tend to be termini non grata in high fashion where pure creativity must be seen to reign supreme. And yet they were the foundation for the Christian Dior ready-to-wear collection on Tuesday. Returning to the 1950s, Maria Grazia Chiuri reinterpreted the classic silhouettes and smash-hit garments that founded the house in contemporary technical sportswear fabrics and new transformable constructions. She wanted to create a wardrobe that read like quintessential Dior but strived to meet the requirements of hard-working, globetrotting, fuss-free women of the 2020s.
Visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum for her Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition in January, Chiuri had a revelation. “In the V&A, the iconic element of the house is so evident. You honestly don’t recognise the difference between the designers so much. You only recognise that it’s Dior,” she said during fittings on Monday. If you imagine John Galliano’s Dior split-screened with the era of Raf Simons – or any other era, for that matter – that idea is hard to believe. But Chiuri was exercising the ablution so sacred inside the powder grey walls of this house: the observance of Christian Dior himself and the decade he spent establishing his business, from 1947 to his death in 1957.
A leitmotif in the show notes, she mentioned Teddy Girls and the early subcultures of the 1950s as references, including “the rebel” Princess Margaret, who wore Dior in the 1950s. (Chiuri likened her to the Duchess of Sussex with whom she recently had tea in Kensington Palace and dressed in Dior haute couture for the British Ambassador’s reception in Morocco on Sunday evening. “I never imagined in my life it would be possible,” the designer said, noting she didn’t think an Italian designer at a French house would be asked.) For its rebellious 1950s references, this collection seemed mainly Mr Dior; overlaid, of course, with Chiuri’s handsome practicality and suffragette sensibility.
“I really believe that Dior is a corporate brand. That’s evident in the exhibition. The silhouette is very specific,” the designer said. “Subculture now is very focused on sportswear. The way we can relate to this world is to use technical materials in fifties’ shapes.” Her philosophy echoed the waves that washed over last week’s shows in Milan, disinfecting fashion of its athleisure bug, and instead re-appropriating the old-world codes of refined and sophisticated dressing with the values of sportswear. “I don’t want to wear sneakers all the time,” Chiuri said on the topic. “I have lots of shoes and they’re all comfortable: boots, kitten heels, and so on.”
She effectively modernised the construction of the New Look shape, replacing heavy fabrication with weightless, techy and durable materials suitable for a culture of travel. “I think a dress has to be wearable. Otherwise it’s a piece of art you can put on your wall. You have to make creative pieces for real life. If I buy something it’s because I want to use it every day.” They were rare statements in an industry built on the fear of obsolescence, but at Chiuri’s house nothing is offhand. While there are no official facts and figures to back it up, it is widely accepted that her collections for Dior have increased sales.
Perhaps that knowledge carved out a collection that reached her most commercial. In the classic trademarks of Dior that run through the V&A exhibition, Chiuri said she saw a timeless relevance. “When you see a dress in the exhibition, you don’t think it’s impossible to wear today. If you are a brand with such a huge history, you have to maintain the codes. But the brand has to contemporary, so I think about maintaining time. I don’t think a brand like Dior has to be so close to the idea of seasonal. You don’t buy a piece for one season only.”
Speaking of stuff that sells, Chiuri’s newest £600 waiting list T-shirt flaunted the words ‘Global Sisterhood’ across the chest, a reference to the literary works of American poet Robin Morgan. The walls of Musée Rodin were covered in the anatomical alphabet renderings of Italian artist Bianca Pucciarelli Menna, who recites a poem before the show. Also known as Tomaso Binga, a pseudonym she took as a protest against misogynistic culture in the arts, the artist’s works were meant to transcend ideas of anatomy and gender, reflecting the feminist core that’s defined Chiuri’s Dior since she arrived at the house in 2016.
Chiuri dedicated her show to Karl Lagerfeld, “the alchemist of elegance and beauty”, whom she worked for at Fendi at the beginning of her career. “I remember him at my first show in Milano. He was the first creative director. The other designers were founders of their houses. I remember his incredible culture. He was a very hard worker. It was a very good experience for me,” she’s reminisced. When she arrived at Dior and joined the LVMH Prize jury, they met again. “During deliberations Karl said, ‘We have to do this fast because Maria Grazia and I also have to do couture, not only pret-a-porter!’” Chiuri laughed. “I never imagined when I met him the first time that I would experience him talking about me in that way.”
Photos are courtesy of Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com
Article from vogue.co.uk. By ANDERS CHRISTIAN MADSEN