Guests arriving to the venue — the storybook magical grounds of the Longchamp racetrack — came upon a huge, minimalist square construction. Its facade flaunted woman-power signage of the sort that has become a Maria Grazia Chiuri signature at Dior. This time the quotes were from renegade choreographers, among them Pina Bausch (“Dance, Dance, Otherwise We Are Lost”) and Sharon Eyal (“The Story Comes From Inside the Body”).
Point made: This collection would be about dance, a natural topic for fashion and one which many designers have mined. “Dance and fashion define the body and, through discipline, teach us to own it,” read the show notes.
To manifest the connection, Chiuri commissioned a compelling new work from Eyal, whose dancers opened the show and performed throughout. Exquisite. And also problematic, at least if you’re a dress that wants to be noticed. Over the years, fashion has seen some seriously theatrical presentations. But when the Instagram-worthy theatrics, whether impending shark attack or bodies in remarkable motion, are separate and apart from the clothes, they can distract from what’s supposed to be the event’s primary purpose. That’s what happened here. (It didn’t help that the dancers were better-lit than the models.)
As for the clothes, this was an improved collection from Chiuri, especially at night. The dance motif allowed her to reject rigorous construction in favor of a bodysuit base, which gave many of the gowns a lovely lyricism: draped, pleated goddess looks; ethereal embroideries with small bodices and graceful full skirts; voluminous trapezes; a monastic Martha Graham moment or two. The day clothes, however, offered little news, apart from the inclusion of some mesh layering pieces that played into the know-your-body subtext. Otherwise, the precision-cut belted jackets; palette strong on navy, khaki and olive drab, plus utilitarian cross-body bags continued the army-of-women construct that Chiuri has put forth since her arrival at Dior. As a life philosophy, it’s great. But as an ongoing building block for a new Dior, it lacks fashion substance, or at least it has, so far.
The show notes called the choreographers who inspired Chiuri “heroines of contemporary dance…[who] revolutionized their discipline.” If Chiuri is determined to revolutionize Dior, that’s a lofty goal and her creative director’s prerogative. But revolution or evolution, slogans aren’t enough. At least not for those of us who believe that in fashion, empowerment should still start with the clothes.