Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2017 Fashion Show

 

The excitement surrounding Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut at Christian Dior was palpable—the first woman ever to take charge as creative director of this storied house, which for so long has stood for “femininity” in the psyche of French culture. But what does “femininity” mean in today’s world? Chiuri is a grown-up professional, who comes from long experience at Valentino, and is ready to put forward her own synthesis of what modern femininity can look like. “The message, really, is that there is not one kind of woman,” she said. What emerged wasn’t a predictable chocolate-box repackaging of ladylike house codes, but a refreshingly widened viewpoint, inclusive of the sporty and the fragile. The balance between the two led to a whole series of relatable, simple, practical pieces aimed at drawing in a new audience.

The opening look, worn by shaven-headed Ruth Bell in a white fencing jacket and knickerbockers, was a jolt to anyone who expected Chiuri to start on a romantic note. But as the designer sees it, the art of fencing “involves mind and heart at the same time, which women always need if they are to realize themselves.”

Quilted, optic white fencing kits with buckled-on halters moved through the show, worn with a new line of sneakers and knee-length boots decorated with embroidered bees. The bee symbol holds the key to another aspect of Chiuri’s approach. Hedi Slimane used the bee as a motif while he was at Dior Homme. In the future, Chiuri plans to draw from the work of designers who’ve designed for Dior over the years. “Monsieur Dior only lives 10 years. It can’t only be about him!” she said. “In some ways, I see myself as a curator of the house.”

But there were plenty of things, which were pure Maria Grazia in this collection—her talent with a lacy blouse and beautifully embroidered tulle dresses and skirts, for example. Through the lineup, the net dresses, scattered with flowers, leaves, and tiny insects, and Chiuri’s sumptuously innocent full-length dresses embroidered with tarot card imagery, were reminiscent of the work she did at Valentino. She can cut a mean piece of tailoring, too—supple double-faced iterations of the Bar jacket; a peacoat; some soberly perfect black coats.

Underneath some pieces there were also faded slogan tees, one of them reading: “We should all be feminists.” Swathes of the new generation of girls and young women are just that already. Now they might have something to wear from Christian Dior, for the first time in their lives.

by Sarah Mower

Dior Spring/Summer 2017 Fashion Show