The world’s a stage, and each must play a part — so said Elvis Presley, and Maria Grazia Chiuri.
For the first major show of Paris Fashion Week, the Dior women’s wear designer transformed a tent in the Tuileries gardens into a ‘60s-era nightclub, with a multilevel circular stage where a live band played Italian disco music, and models stood until it was their turn to walk.
It turns out the audience was part of the concept, too. “Fashion is a performance, where the performers are not only the models, but also the people that participate in the show,” Chiuri explained in a preview. “I feel like it’s a new debut in a way, where you are again on stage.”
Marc Bohan’s ‘60s-era designs for the house, currently on display as part of a Dior retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, inspired the look of the collection, which channeled a youthquake spirit with colorful A-line dresses, trapeze coats and miniskirts, paired with white gogo boots or patent leather mary janes.
Chiuri has spent the last 18 months pondering the role of the fashion industry, under fire for fueling overconsumption at a time when climate change is causing widespread natural disasters. She’s worked to introduce more sustainable fabrics into her collections, but has also been feeling the urge to bring back joy after months of lonely lockdowns.
“We have to recognize the fact that humanity needs clothes, because it’s a way to perform in the world,” she said.
That was especially the case at the Piper nightclub in Rome in the ‘60s, a hotbed for the avant-garde where artists, socialites and actors converged to dance their way into a bright new future. Among them was Anna Paparatti, who designed the set for the Dior show based on her 1964 painting “The Game of Nonsense.”
Chiuri’s designs were in perfect synch with the setting. There were skimpy skirt suits in citrus shades; color-blocked dresses and coat; stiff bandeau tops and skirts with oversize prints of exotic animals, borrowed from the house’s signature Toile de Jouy and blown up to abstract proportions; and crystal-fringed dresses that begged for a glitter ball backdrop.
She was particularly inspired by Bohan’s Slim Look collection, presented in 1961 — a departure from founder Christian Dior’s hourglass Bar jacket. “I was obsessed with the idea of showing how many different jacket silhouettes are in the history of Dior, so I did very different shapes, because I don’t just want to speak about the Bar jacket,” she explained.
Chiuri has a strong sense of the house’s heritage, but she’s also grounded in the present, and she knows that many young women are no longer wearing tailored jackets at all.
Expanding on the sportswear elements she introduced with her cruise collection, she balanced the retro looks with items such as satiny boxing robes and shorts in jewel tones; cannage-patterned quilted puffer jackets; printed army surplus jackets and cargo pants, and mini versions of the new Dior Vibe gym bag, the first of which will hit stores in November.
Ultimately, Chiuri wants the wearer to express themselves — whether that means donning a pair of thick-soled boots, or a dainty cape-backed minidress. The industry still hasn’t figured out how to balance the human need for creativity with its responsibility towards the planet, she recognized.
“Like all games, there are some aspects that are serious, and some aspects that are fun,” Chiuri mused. This season, at least, her girls just want to have fun.