Maria Grazia Chiuri’s fall collection for Dior was inspired by the ’50s — the heyday of founder Christian Dior that remains the bedrock of the luxury brand’s communications strategy.
But rather than rehashing archival designs, or conjuring a modern-day version of Betty Draper, the designer delved into the stories of three heroines who shaped the post-war years in Paris. Dior’s sister Catherine, a French Resistance fighter during World War II, and singers Édith Piaf and Juliette Gréco inspired a lineup that had more than a touch of beatnik about it.
“Their style, their independence and their artistic vision was for the time really revolutionary,” Chiuri said in a preview. “These women that I think are closer to me, with my attitude, with my vision, give me a different way to think and to look at the archive and also at the codes of the house.”
Totaling a whopping 96 looks, the lineup was underpinned by the kind of bustier dresses and razor-pleated skirts that wouldn’t look out of place in the early seasons of “Mad Men.” But Chiuri mussed up those neat silhouettes with crinkled surface effects, some of them achieved with fabrics incorporating stainless steel thread.
“If we think about the Dior silhouette, in a way, it’s very precise. With this metal inside, everything loses this idea of definition,” she said. Leather gloves and cat-eye sunglasses lent a subversive attitude to a wrinkled black shift dress, while hourglass jackets with tulip-shaped sleeves were left unbuttoned over black bras.
With her crumpled gingham skirt, sheer pussy-bow blouse and weathered leather coat, a model with smudged black eyeliner and a Jean Seberg-style pixie cut looked like she could have spent the night debating existential philosophy in a smoky Left Bank café. Tartan coats, brushed sweaters and circle skirts had a chic student vibe.
Floral patterns were borrowed from a chiné fabric from the archive that Chiuri shared with artist Joana Vasconcelos, who decked out the venue in one of her monumental textile sculptures, which she dubs “Valkyries” after the female warrior deities of Norse mythology.
“We started from the same reference,” Chiuri said. Sequins winked from a series of chic black evening dresses, echoing the lights that pulsed on the tentacular structures that loomed over guests. On a white T-shirt, trailing threads spelled out “Je ne regrette rien,” as Piaf’s voice echoed from the loudspeakers.
Chiuri said she was a little nervous presenting the collection to her new boss Delphine Arnault, who took over this month as chairman and chief executive officer of Christian Dior Couture.
“It’s probably the first time that I did a collection so close with Paris and the heritage of the house,” said the designer, who has been at the house for seven years. “I think these three women synthesize the spirit of Paris, but of course, it’s my point of view as an Italian. I hope that it’s not too stereotypical.”
While trenchcoats and berets tapped into the popular myth of the Parisienne, this was far from the Technicolor vision peddled by TV catnip like “Emily in Paris.” With its smoky seduction, and side glances at the minimalist ‘90s, Chiuri’s ode to Paris was one that even her muses could get behind.