DIOR EST UNE FEMME is the rather appropriate title given to an editorial shoot for Vogue Paris, with Bella Hadid outfitted in none other than ensembles from the debut collection of Maria Grazia Chiuri for the house of Dior. But fashion houses have new creative directors all the time, one might say. Especially in recent years, with an unprecedented designer turnaround in houses from Chloé to Givenchy (Claire Wright-Keller leaving the former house after six years, and Riccardo Tisci ends his 12-year tenure at the latter). The fact that Churi is the first female designer in Dior’s history is what matters. A classic fashion house with exquisite collections aimed at women has, believe it or not, been run by men throughout its history. The first woman at Dior, the insiders whispered. Currents and gossip ran high in autumn; there’s nothing fashion loves more than a good debut.
Her first collection for the house, the spring/summer 2016 presented in Paris on a sunny September day, was a loud nod to femininity. Always a good precedent to set. Models wearing full dresses with card imagery and slogan tees reading “We should all be feminists” were applauded, and yet, too many remnants of her tenure at Valentino remained. A fair expectation given her arrival at the house a mere four weeks before her first collection was to set off on the runway. The tulle, transparencies, and embroidered motifs – a signature of hers at Valentino – overshadowed the Dior-esque bar jackets and fencing undercurrent, a nod not only to Christian Dior, but also to the six designers that preceded Chiuri. After Piccoli’s solo debut at Valentino that received a standing ovation, to say Chiuri was under great pressure for couture, is an understatement.
Oh did she deliver. While her Valentino signature is inevitable, there was much more Dior. “It’s impossible to use the same language in pret-a-porter and couture. Pret-a-porter is about time; couture is timeless” she told BoF. She still wants it to be wearable though, and the fact every show attendee was lusting after every gown, with some taking upwards 500 hours to make, attests to the immutability of the collection. Both young it-girls and seasoned Academy Award nominees will be content. There were as many intricate chiffon and velvet red carpet options as there were gowns for modern swans. A fire red velvet quilted gown stood out as an alternative for the Battaglias and Santo Domingos of the world.
Part of her Dior entry package was full reign over ad campaigns – a creative benefit her predecessor Raf Simons was denied – and her inaugural campaign was both a message to start from scratch, and a sign of what’s to come. No intricate sets, in fact, no backdrop at all aside from stark white. Twin models May and Ruth bell, both pallid and blonde, stand in red gowns with straps that read ‘Christian Dior’ or tulle skirts and sweaters, holding bags embroidered with ‘J’Adior.’ If Chiuri wanted the focus to be solely on the clothing and accessories – likely to be worn by most fashion week attendees in February – her mission succeeded.
Chiuri’s target is clear as day: the millennials. The girls who are currently obsessed with the Gucci revolution while sticking to their beloved Alexander Wang outfits and Chanel accessories. Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, despite its tweed and midi hemlines, counts Cara Delevigne, Lily-Rose Depp, and Kristen Stewart as his muses. Notice the undercurrent? They’re all under 30. It’s the demographic Chiuri wants to hit with Dior’s studded handbags, logos, and leather jackets: the stylish and young, the future of fashion.
Her efforts play off; the fashion industry is readily embracing her. Cue these editorials with Bella Hadid for Vogue Paris and an exclusive Dior shoot at Vogue Russia with Hayley Bennet on the cover wearing, you guessed it, Dior. Or Emily Ratajkowski covering Vogue Spain’s February issue in a white pleated mini. In an age of feminism starkly placed against Donald Trump’s alternative facts and occasional anti-female rhetoric, female designers are ones likely to draw the most strength from these events, since it is now when change is the most likely. They say artists thrive in turbulent times. If so, Chiuri’s future at Dior looks promising. — Victoria. Images: Vogue Spain – Fashion Editorials, Vogue US – Visualizing Fashion, Vogue Paris – Visualizing Fashion, Dior Campaign – Fashion Gone Rogue