Christian Dior: Back with the best of ‘68
Fashion’s ability to predict the future, to presage sociological changes, was evident at the latest fun and funky collection for the house of Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. For, ever since the Italian couturier arrived at Dior, she has pursued a stylishly feminist agenda, celebrating women’s rights, a message which - to her credit - pre-dated the most important social movement of the past 12 months, 'MeToo'.
Her opening look said it all: a model in mid length check culottes, mechanic boots and a white wool sweater upon which was written, “C’est Non Non Non et Non.” The very demand of MeToo, that when a lady says no, she means it.
From the militant feminist clogs and sea captain caps to the mannish trouser suits and red rock star glasses this collection was all about women enjoying, even glorying in, their independence. An independence won in many ways back by their mothers and aunts, back in the Sixties, as was celebrated by a marvelous set courtesy of Alex de Betak.
A massive collage 80 meters long of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar covers; Girl Power posters and images of protest marches – in English, Italian and French. “Attenzione, parole libere", or "Watch out Free Speech" in Italian; or "La Beauté est dans la rue", "Beauty is on the streets" in French; or most remarkably a black and white photo culled from the Dior archives, dating form 1966. It showed a group of young women in front of a Dior boutique with placards reading “Miniskirts Forever!” and “Dior Unfair to Mini Skirts!” A message clearly heard by Dior at the time, since its then artistic director Marc Bohan determined as a result to launch Miss Dior, youthful ready-to-wear in a radical fresh step for the couture house.
“This was a time when what Diana Vreeland called a youth-quake somehow changed everything in the world in the Sixties. A movement in England and France that over threw the old rules and revolutionized fashion. And, I think we seeing exactly the same thing today via social media. The next generation want to change and improve their world too!” insisted Chiuri in a packed backstage.
Chiuri also sent out Ban the Bomb motif sweaters and arty left ponchos on a cast, practically all of whose members wore a cap, the sort one associates with V.I. Lenin or indeed Jeremy Corbyn. Not, perhaps, traditional Dior customers.
Though the Italian designer is no killjoy. Her Dior misses like to have a good time. Funky patchwork boleros and cocktails; tough-gal lambskin leather suits; and lots of see-through looks – from red chiffon flamenco dresses to transparent white lace Victorian frocks. A lady would need a very fit figure to wear many of these dresses. And, to think, they used to insist that fat was a feminist issue…
Though the highlight was some rather wonderful crochet robes or dresses; and delightful floral embroidered frocks, cinched, as was half the collection, by big leather belts with capital 'D' brass buckles.
While the soundtrack captured the free spirit of the show: a series of songs by Kate Bush. “She’s most powerful woman musician of them all. That’s why she’s just right for this show,” commented ace DJ Michel Gaubert, who blended the tracks together.
The show also heralded the passing of the guard at Dior’s management. With Pietro Beccari sitting front-row as the new CEO, opposite his predecessor at Dior, Sidney Toledano, and his successor in his old job – Serge Brunschwig, the new CEO of Fendi.
Chiuri took her bow to a huge burst of applause, her noisiest reception yet at the storied house. Though, one could not help noticing that Dior’s patron and France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, was conspicuously absent.
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