It’s been seventy years of Dior and now Maria Grazia Chiuri, a year after her entrance into the brand , has brought Dior’s Autumn/Winter 2017 collection to the grounds of Paris’ historic Hôtel National des Invalides.
The first week in July didn’t scare Chiuri away from an outdoor showcase highly anticipated by global fashion media and critics alike. Despite over two decades at Valentino, speculation slowly grew as to whether Chiuri could face the challenge of becoming Dior’s artistic director, and to what degree she would be able continue a grand legacy.
Starting off on a high-point, Chiuri’s first year at Dior marked the first in 69 years of having a female lead. Now, with Chiuri’s determination and obvious successes, she has taken the brand into it’s seventieth year celebrating a milestone in the legacy of the Christian Dior name.
” As restless as the first female explorers who overcame geographical and psychological frontiers, she is drawn to the heroine’s flair for borrowing elements from the masculine wardrobe and mixing them with ethnic pieces. Thanks to the designer’s sensitivity and new technologies, menswear fabrics are transformed into shimmering surfaces and chiaroscuro on jackets, coats, blouses and jumpsuits that recall aviator jackets and open into pleated culotte skirts. Meanwhile, the masculine fedora by Stephen Jones, the milliner who this year celebrates his 20th anniversary as Dior’s hat designer, nods to explorers such as Freya Stark.” (Dior.com)
The future of Dior no longer hands in the balance since Raf Simons’ departure from the brand in 2015. Aware of talk surrounding the brand’s future under her capabilities, somewhat consciously, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s show was anything but mediocre.
In the courtyard of the hotel against the backdrop of its dome, a star hung above an amphitheatre complete with wooden safari animals. Italian contemporary artist Pietro Ruffo, known in the fashion world for his overtaking of a Roman fountain for Valentino’s Haute Couture show (2015), was the man behind the setting.
Inspired by trans-continental travel, the five-point star became a representation of the five continents (despite Geographical conventions suggesting that there are seven continents). But fashion can be highly excused. The magnitude of Chiuri’s influences were diverse- distant lands, female explorers of the the early 20th century and the discoveries that arise through travel- “to discover the world and oneself, to feel emotion, grow and evolve” (dior.com)
No other location would have been fitting. Final resting place to Napoleon Bonaparte, national institution, home of churches, French Baroque architecture, art and rich history.
For Chuiri’s second collection for Dior, something historic was reimagined. Against expectations, grey ruled the catwalk. It was of course, Christian Dior himself who once said “The tones of gray, pale turquoise and pink will prevail.”
Cashmere, wool, shearling, herringbone and finely pleated tulle cascaded through the space. Layers and wraps, sleeves, full-suits, belts and hats – a travellers dream wardrobe. Tailoring was reimagined challenging the norms of her historic influencers. Men’s tailoring designed for the female silhouette. Despite its Haute Couture epithet, the collection was ultimately wearable. Universal for women.
Functional pockets, darts to cinch in at the waist and a variety of necklines and sleeve lengths. A black cashmere coat adorned with gold, supposedly derived from a 1953 etched-map found by Chuiri. A dress layered with ruffled ombre chiffon from grey to red. Floral embroidery decorated floor-length dresses and a kimono-like jacket. A myriad of patterns aside from florals and maps, patchwork made an unexpected, but desirable entry into collection.
The shoes proved highly diverse. Feminine pumps to chunky loafers. Like the garments themselves, the collection was highly transitional from day to night, from plane to discovering new lands. Similarly, differing weathers were taken into account with the obvious warmth differences between shearling and lace to leathers and other lighter fabrics.
Quintessentially French, with minimal makeup to match a collection of limited colour palette. Creative and image director for Dior Makeup Peter Philips kept beauty at its most simple- Diorskin Forever foundation, Diorshow Brow Styler pencil and the Diorshow Bold Brow mascara were Philips’ go-to for the show.
Couture at its most highly crafted, this collection became a great 70th birthday celebration for Dior.