Maria Grazia Chiuri is the first woman to helm the house of Dior in over 70 years, and her inaugural collection was painfully conscious of that hard-to-overlook fact. “I think fashion is about change. Fashion is about revolution. And I think that revolutionary is a woman. I’m a little bit feminist because I’m a woman at Dior and so I wanted to speak about the women in a different way,” the designer told Financial Times ahead of the collection’s debut.
Change has been quite the notion recently, especially in a time where legacy luxury brands are struggling to communicate with a new breed of consumer. And while Dior hasn’t been the most financially embattled of these brands, the house has still had its fair share of scandal. There was John Galliano’s anti-semitic outburst, Raf Simon’s overwhelmingly white runway shows, even the 2010 backlash over a Chinese commercial that relied too heavily on offensive tropes of Orientalism.
So yes, some of Dior’s other creative directors have been faultless where design is concerned, but have fallen short on social consciousness in the eyes of consumers. Chiuri’s approach seems to hinge on paring back the dainty feminism that has long been a hallmark of the brand while ushering in a new, more culturally responsive point of view. If this debut is anything to judge by, then we can expect a modern, irreverent lady to emerge; one who reads Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie essays on feminism and then wears t-shirts with standout quotes like, “We should all be feminists.” In the case of the many fencing-inspired pieces, the new Dior woman can apparently also effortlessly dismember someone with an épée, foil or sabre – just choose the weapon.
Despite the updated point of view, the inherent romance of Dior somehow remains. For instance, Chiuri’s declarative feminist t-shirt is paired with a translucent, bead-detailed skirt that fumes with a dark sort of whimsy one could imagine both Wednesday Addams and Regina George finding mutually covetable – that’s not an easy task. Chiuri’s gowns touted a similar beautiful but dangerous sensibility; one dress boasted a low-cut bustier style bodice with panelling that evoked the restrictive boning of corsets. Yet with Dior-brand boxers peeking out from beneath, and a flowing, floor-length skirt decorated with stars, bats and all ilk of off-the-wall symbols, it was transmuted from Southern debutante to Bushwick coven priestess.
In other news, the Karl Lagerfeld and Robert Pattinson linkup no one ever thought about until it happened, happened.