Maria Grazia Chiuri, the house’s artistic director for women’s, showed her first couture collection for Christian Dior in the Japanese capital Wednesday. And while the collection had been revealed in Paris in January, there were also eight looks designed specifically for the occasion that had never been seen before.
“I think it’s very important to show couture in Japan, because couture is very close with craftsmanship, with our identity, because in any case Dior is a couture brand,” Chiuri said. “And I think here there is an audience that appreciates this value. Couture, I think, is very close with Japan. Because in any case Japan has a sense of the tradition, of heritage. And so I am sure that they appreciate that we show couture.”
Chiuri said she was inspired by house founder Christian Dior’s attraction to Japan, which she saw throughout the archives, including in a cherry blossom print dating to 1953 and a jacket designed to be worn over a kimono.
“I went in the archives, and I found many references between Mr. Dior and Japan. He was very fascinated with Japanese culture, about the prints, about the Jardin Japonais, about the traditional Japanese dresses,” the designer said. “And I found many references that he did in 1953. Some prints, but also some pictures with the models all dressed in traditional kimono, and some sketches where he did a coat that could be used on top of traditional Japanese [kimonos]. I think he was very clever to understand the point of view of Japanese women. And that explains also why the Dior brand is so worldwide, because immediately Mr. Dior understood different kinds of women.”
Dior’s love of gardens, which inspired the spring couture collection, meshed perfectly with the Japan theme, which was manifested in beautiful gowns and separates embellished with delicately hand-painted, embroidered and appliquéd silk and even feather blossoms. There were flowing chiffon dresses, a striking silk coat with an almost straw-like texture, and a dramatic long, fringed raffia skirt and matching tube top.
“When we did the couture collection in January, the idea was about a garden. And we did a runway that was a labyrinth, and we spoke about the legacy between Mr. Dior and gardens,” Chiuri said. “But this is a specific garden, and we used the flowers on top of the dresses, but like the flowers of memories. And so I believe that also the Jardin Japonais inside of this kind of collection could work well together.”
For the Tokyo show, Dior transformed the rooftop garden of the new Ginza Six retail complex — also home to the brand’s latest flagship — into a fantastical wonderland that mimicked the set of the original Paris presentation. Models wound their way around the venue as the wind perfectly rustled the silk of their gowns and guests watched from green velour cushions placed atop hedge-like benches. A Japanese style wish tree, its branches dripping with charms, trinkets and paper strips scrawled with wishes, had pride of place in front of the photography podium.
After the couture show, the action moved across town to a warehouse-style space in Tokyo Bay, where creative director Kris Van Assche presented Dior Homme’s pre-fall collection. The designer set up eight “rooms,” in which models posed in punk-like suits, slim jeans and zippered jackets inspired by the New Wave music scene of the Eighties.
“New Wave music has been quite present [in my collections] over the last few seasons, but this time I decided to even do a word game with the words ‘new wave’ and print them as a sportswear street logo,” Van Assche said. “My collections are always about contrast, and even if I think about an Eighties reference, I still want it to stay very modern, very today. It’s about souvenirs, but it’s not about nostalgia.”
The designer chose the staging of the presentation, which included band posters on the walls, for very deliberate reasons.
“I really wanted this to be about teens in their bedroom, fantasizing what their lives are going to be, listening to music, playing records together. It’s really this moment in life where you have to decide what are the dreams that you’re going to stick onto and what it is going to mean to grow up,” he said.
But Van Assche’s “teens” were much more stylish than your average adolescent listening to music in his bedroom. While the overall look was cool and street-ready, there were lots of updated suits, jackets and dress shirts.
“Tailoring is always going to be the starting point at Dior, it’s in the DNA of the brand. But it’s about reinventing the black suit all over and over again. It’s about giving it new trousers, new details, new fits. Just to keep it current and to make it more attractive to young people,” he said. “It is very much about mixture, all my work is about mixture. If there’s a lot of tailoring, there will be a lot of sportswear. If it’s about the dark, romantic New Wave, then I’ll put some street elements. Because I really like different worlds clashing so that it will never become too literal or too vintage.”