Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest collection for the house of Dior was also her latest meditation on the relationship between feminism, fashion and female rebellion.
Witches and sorceresses everywhere on the prints and among the cast in the latest show for Dior, while the audience seemed bewitched by the stars sitting front row. Never have so many iPhone wielding fans caused such a scrum as Tuesday afternoon in Paris at Dior, where hundreds fought for videos of Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron and assorted K-Pop stars.
All staged in a brilliant set – a video art installation named Not Her by Rome-born artist Elena Bellantoni, a giant series of displays on the objectification of women, culled from post-war advertising. A full counterblast against masculine domination that led to a new rebellious vision of Dior.
Frayed sleeves, torn lace, unspooling dresses and ghostly apparitions. Many tailored redingotes and pleated skirts in black, featured spectral figures suddenly emerging. While Maria Grazia went into overdrive with prints: led by the Mille-fleurs whose summery insouciance was transformed into a dark web like motif.
Even the sun took on a diabolically air in toile de jouy, as did the moon, while a malevolent looking spider web turned out to be an ancient map of Paris.
The cast made up with pulled back chignons and blackened lips. “Maria Grazia asked for witchy lips! that’s what we gave her,” chuckled makeup maestro Peter Philips, drawing a line across where the lips meet.
“The project was to absorb the idea of women as witches, but to suggest the idea in a more ironic manner,” commented Maria Grazia in a pre-show backstage chat.
“We wanted to use a series of stereotypes, and let the images speak about what is still the condition of our minds. And even more so in fashion,” added Chiuri, sitting beside Bellantoni. The artist attired head to toe in Chiuri’s Dior, from precise Bar jacket to lace skirt and bovver boots.
The result was an overpowering 200-meter-long video display that covered all four walls of the custom-made show space inside the Tuileries Gardens. In a triumph for French organizational skills, it existed beside a massive fan zone for the Rugby World Cup, currently taking place in France.
Dior sorceresses marching in pearl finished strapped shoes or green glazed bovver boots. A show completed with moving graphics based on feminists slogans.
Featuring 24 ads, mined from advertising campaigns, and even a few faux ones featuring Bellantoni herself. A historic commentary on women’s bodies and their perception by the male gaze. “Take your hands off when I say no. Take your eyes off when I say no, I say no.” Or “I am not your doll. I am not your game. Call me by my name.”
Before the video screens, the cast striding by in frayed and belted Bar jackets; ankle length pleated skirts; punky leather jackets over semi-sheer skirts and very fine town-coats whose print was the Sun King transformed into a wild necromancer.
Even her new version of the Dior’s incredibly successful tote respected the theme. The print featured medicinal herbs ideal for a thaumaturgist’s potion.
Chiuri’s cleverest composition was cutting tops and dresses so that fell suggestively, but never cheaply, off one shoulder. An idea riffing on a Dior New Look nipped at the waist dress from the 1948 Abandon collection, an image found in the house’s archive.
On her mood-board, a series of tragic female figures – Maria Callas playing Medea; Ingrid Bergman as Joan of Arc. Reflecting on the collection, the Italian couturier mused that the image we have today of Dior are nearly all culled from American photographers, and don’t really reflect how women wore Dior while Monsieur was still alive. Especially in Paris.
“Let’s be clear many Parisian women worked in fashion and so did the women who wore Dior. So our vison of the house’s past is not correct to me,” concluded Chiuri, who took a brief bow at the finale, ever confident, a feminist force if ever there was on.
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