Maria Grazia Chiuri is no stranger to a high-brow academic reference. Having made feminism the bedrock of her tenure at Dior, she often steeps her collections in literature and art made by and about women.

Not so this season. After months of restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, Chiuri just wants to have fun. “My team and I wanted to play with fashion,” she said of her pre-fall collection, which marks a break with her previous focus on pared-down wardrobe essentials.

“We would like to come back to making fashion in a more light, less serious way, because we are all people that love fashion, so we want to be optimistic for the future,” the designer added. Cue bright colors, bold patterns and plenty of shine.

Dior Pre-Fall 2021

Dior Pre-Fall 2021  Dominique Maître/WWD

The starting point was the riot known as Mitzah Bricard, one of founder Christian Dior’s original muses and collaborators. Bricard, who was officially the fashion house’s head of millinery, lived at the Ritz, rarely rose before midday and was usually draped in leopard print. 

That was quite a fashion statement in the Fifties, but since then, the animal pattern has become a pop culture staple — so Chiuri found herself making the leap from a leopard-print trench coat in the Dior archives to Elio Fiorucci, who shook up Italian fashion with his magpie retail emporium in Milan, leaving a lasting impression on her. 

Chiuri reprised the chiné fabric technique of the original coat to offer her own updated version, and modernized the leopard motif by transferring it to outerwear, including a see-through PVC raincoat, a quilted shirt and a snug zip-up jacket — part of a new skiwear line for women.

The print was shrunk to tiny proportions and paired with micro hearts and polka dots on a colorful patchwork chiffon dress. Leopard-spotted flats added a dash of glamour to a Rosie-the-Riveter denim jumpsuit, and there was daytime sparkle, courtesy of a navy sequined bra and skirt, worn over a fishnet unitard, and a silver lambskin jumpsuit. 

Dior Pre-Fall 2021

Dior Pre-Fall 2021  Dominique Maître/WWD

While the lineup lacked coherence at times, Chiuri explained she took her cue from Andy Warhol’s Pop Art reworking of Renaissance paintings.

“My idea was to work on Dior with the same attitude, because I think Pop gives this idea of freedom, of happiness, that I think is so important in this moment when we are just a little bit depressed,” she said.

Hence the psychedelic floral pattern on a black velvet top, and the zingy updates on Dior signature patterns: checks for a lightweight technical silk version of the Bar jacket, and chartreuse Toile de Jouy on a lace circle skirt. Chiuri admitted that color was outside her comfort zone. 

Dior Pre-Fall 2021

Dior Pre-Fall 2021  Dominique Maître/WWD

“It’s not something that I’ve used frequently in my career. But I felt the necessity to work in something completely different,” she explained. “It was very good for me to come back again to my first moment in fashion when I was young and I went to the Fiorucci store, to find the same energy, the same love, the same surprise.”

She enlisted Maripol, the former art director of Fiorucci’s New York flagship, to shoot the look book for the collection. “I really love how she works with the models. She doesn’t want to shoot the dress. She wants to shoot the personality of the model,” Chiuri remarked.

Even her signature statement T-shirt was tweaked to reflect the times. In lieu of a feminist slogan, it bore the words “Christian Dior MMXX” on the front and “Together Apart” on the back. “I did it because I don’t want to forget,” Chiuri said.

See also: 

Seminal Moment: Why the Fiorucci Store Was the Mother of All Retail Concepts

Dior Goes Doll-Sized With Fall Couture Collection

L.A. Artist Gisela Colón on Organic Minimalism, Her New Solo Show and Dior Collaboration

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