It has been seven decades since Christian Dior revolutionized fashion and revamped the female silhouette with his “New Look” Spring/Summer collection in 1947. It was the post-war period, and fashion was rather monotonous. “New Look” was Dior’s first couture collection, launched in order to breathe new life into his (then) struggling company. Waspy waists, soft shoulders, full-skirts- the collection celebrated femininity, elegance and freedom of movement. Dior claimed that he wanted “to bring back beauty, feminine clothing, soft rounded shapes and full flowing skirts.” The hourglass figure, trademark of the collection, oozed grace and opulence. Mr. Dior loved women and is probably rolling in his grave watching Maria Grazia Chiuri‘s latest collection presented today at Paris Fashion Week.
“We should all be feminists”, stated Chiuri a year ago receiving praise from all over the fashion world, myself included. She modernized the label’s signature and announced a fresh perspective and strong vision. Fashion (and Dior) lovers nodded while she fulfilled their expectations. Until today, that is. While designing Spring 2018 ready-to-wear collection she dug into Dior archives and found inspiration in the works of Niki de Saint Phalle, French feminist sculptress whose art was vividly influenced by the abuse she had suffered as a child. Chiuri’s question of the season is “why have there been no great woman artists?” Does she really imply that art has gender? I can’t help but remember some of the greatest female artists that left a strong, indelible trace in the art history- Georgia O’Keeffe (whose work Chiuri channeled in Calabasas), Tamara de Lempicka, Frida Kahlo, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (who celebrated women and their bourgeois influence, poise and beauty in the late 18th century), Marie-Ann Fragonard, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (whose works are exhibited at the Louvre), just to name a few. These women would surely despise the gender categorization of their work. In an already deeply divided world, why mix art with feminism? Isn’t using prefix “female” while describing women in art already anti-feminist? Okay, let us move on to the collection itself.
“The collection is a tribute to Niki de Saint Phalle’s unique style and her daring art; it lies between dream and reality, between the magic world of tarots, almost psychedelic atmospheres, and the pragmatic dynamism of everyday life, represented by strident colors, constructions inspired by sport attires, and materials that are at the same time technical and romantic”, stated Maria Grazia Chiuri after the Dior show. So, a mix of everything, no?
“It’s strange for me to be talking about this argument still, but now we have to speak up again! It’s a culture that’s inside us,” Chiuri argued, referring to ingrained views of men and women. Niki de Saint Phalle, the designer said, lived in a time when “it was very difficult for women to express themselves. But the new generation, I think, has to fight with themselves to change these ideas, too.”
Leopard print, spider applique on a see-through top paired with stripes and mesh boots is not very artsy, is it? We live in strange fashion times, where you see a gold suit (resembling the one Dave Gahan wore in the “It’s no good” video back in 1997, portraying a pimp) on a Dior runway. Reptilian motifs rule the jumpers and bags, chess board outfits contribute to the psychedelic atmosphere Chiuri envisioned, knee-high silver boots make me want to build a time machine and travel back to the time when Dior was a synonym for elegance and femininity. To be fair, there are a couple of pieces that stand out as impeccable works of art, such as the beautifully tailored black suit and waist-coat or the fringed denim jacket. That is Dior I still adore. That is Dior I hope to see in the future.
Photo Credit: Vogue (runway photos), Fashionista (cover photo)