A black-and-white photo from the Christian Dior archives shows a slim, corseted gown from the founder’s fall 1954 couture collection, its strict silhouette softened with a sari-style drape of fabric over one shoulder.
Another photo depicts models lined up on the boarding stairs of an Air India jetliner, each wearing a floral “welcome” garland. Dior’s second successor Marc Bohan had sent his spring 1962 couture collection to Mumbai and Delhi for charity shows, thus continuing a dialog with the Asian nation.
A recent color photo depicts Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s current artistic director of women’s collections, wearing a similar garland and smiling out from the center of a group shot with the female artisans at the Chanakya embroidery workshop in Mumbai.
Chiuri has worked with Indian textile artisans for three decades, and she decided to exalt their richness with her pre-fall collection for Dior, alight with saturated colors, bold prints and intricate embroideries.
There’s also a pair of velvet flip-flops in a deep purple that have bestseller written all over them.
The entire collection seduced, with Chiuri etching a rich and intricate backstory into an eminently wearable collection that spans from loose shirts and pareo-style skirts to eye-catching opera coats glinting with metallic or bullion embroideries.
During a preview in Paris, Chiuri drew parallels between her native Italy and India, each of its regions sheltering unique craft traditions that have enriched fashion at home and abroad. “I want to celebrate this friendship, this sisterhood,” she said, also trumpeting India’s importance in the fashion system and its strong and unique culture of national dress.
Chiuri blended Dior’s codes and India’s riches beautifully: giving a slim shape and Nehru-style collar to a Bar jacket; populating toile de Jouy prints with lucky animals including elephants, peacocks and monkeys, and streamlined versions of salwar kameez in zesty colors and busy carpet prints.
“I transferred these details in something that is more wearable for today,” she said, citing a mission to bring even more functionality, versatility and wearability to her designs for Dior. “This is very important today in my point of view on fashion.”
A case in point: she took a Dior jacket from 1948 with a flaring back that was famously photographed by Horst and added a back belt that could tame the volume. She executed the garment in a sturdy Japanese cotton that’s suitable for everyday wear, and added a quilted lining that can be buttoned in or out.
“The wardrobe is something that you build,” she said. “Women like me want a coat that you can use for more than one season.
“I think that it’s very important to have a vision for a brand and maintain a language where you become recognizable,” she continued. “Also because what I like doesn’t change each season.”