The clean geometry of the giant rectangular facade rose in man-made opposition to the surrounding greenery and grim afternoon clouds. Yet its unfussy, natural wood foretold of an interplay with nature. The structure (facade only; it fronted a traditional white show tent) welcomed guests into a bucolic setting at the Longchamp racetrack; Maria Grazia Chiuri saw it as a new iteration of the house of Dior’s long-running appreciation for gardens. Yet rather than a pretty, manicured vista of vibrant flowers that would be here today and (literally) gone tomorrow, this was a fledgling forest, moody and magical enough for evocative viewing, and sustainable, too. It was the work of the landscape and urbanism collective Coloco. The 160 trees, their bulbous root bundles wrapped in burlap, will be broken down beginning on Thursday and distributed for replanting in four locations.
An acknowledgment by Chiuri of the need to think in terms of sustainable practices in every aspect — yes. “We have to use creativity, but we are more conscious about what we do…,” she said during a preview. “It’s important that the message is correct.”
Yet Chiuri acknowledged that sustainability is a complicated issue, and in fashion, an often contradictory one. “On one side is the desire to renovate [existing clothes in women’s closets],” she said. “At the same time, [my job is to] create desire. We can find a balance that works. It’s very complex.”
Achieving that balance between timelessness and newness is an ongoing process. For spring, as always, Chiuri approached it from her baseline feminist perspective. This time she did so subtly — no message Ts or paramilitary styling. Rather, she took inspiration from Catherine Dior, sister of the house founder and a professional gardener at a time when women seldom rolled up their sleeves in that kind of employment.
A picture of Catherine on Chiuri’s mood board showed her in a white shirt and pants, if not workwear exactly, then certainly with enough of the essence to inform the collection’s casual side. This appeared in pieces clearly derived from utilitarian classics; for instance, tie-dyed jeans and a jumpsuit. It showed more subtly in tailored pieces that looked unfussy and practical while at times still ringing the archival bell with deft control, including one or two Bar jackets that worked. “It’s who we are,“ Chiuri said. She showed her strong range of jackets over full, structured minis (New Look descended and chopped to midthigh); pleated and tie-dyed versions of the fluid, relaxed midcalf skirts that have become a signature of hers, and, sometimes, baggy jeans. There were also beautiful sweaters with flower intarsias and some that incorporated pieces from real flowers. A great look: The slouchy floral pullover over baggy cropped pants. Fabrics ranged from haute to humble, including garden-worthy raffias.
As for the evening dresses, they came mostly in diaphanous fabrics, often with finely wrought embroideries. But as with the daywear, Chiuri kept to a mostly somber palette, a base of earthy beiges and browns, with muted floral accents. The result: a chic twist on goddess garb, radiant with an off-beat, earthy sobriety.