“We Should All Be Feminists” read the t-shirt paired with an embellished tulle skirt half-way through the Christian Dior spring/summer presentation this afternoon. If the label’s new creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri was looking to make a statement with her first collection for the well-known brand, this was it. She made it clear that she’s the one in charge now and she’s not messing around.
When Dior CEO Sidney Toledano announced Chiuri’s appointment to the house he said, “She’s very straightforward and a direct person and so, frankly, the first time I met her, I knew that she was the one.”
“Direct and straightforward” could easily describe this collection as well. Chiuri starts with what I would normally consider a rather dubious silhouette based on quilted fencing attire. I’ve never been a fan of the back-fastening cover that seems, in my opinion, to only be a couple of straps short of a straight jacket. Consider the elements of that cover, though: the straps on the side, the quilting, the colored heart over the left breast, and the Dior emblem on the soft shoes. Remember those because one or more of them is going to show up on almost every look in the collection.
Chiuri starts by deconstructing that first look. First, she modifies the jacket and adds a tulle skirt with tiers of mini-ruffles. Next, she brings back the long-sleeve shirt with a quilted overlay strapped on the sides. She keeps playing with that theme in one form or another, frequently with quilting and straps, through the first 15 looks of this very large 60+ look collection. The red heart, straps, and quilting never entirely disappear even as she changes to softer, more traditional Dior looks.
There’s no question that Chiuri skews the brand’s look toward a younger audience and, again, that’s exactly what Toledano hired her to do. He said:
We were talking about the vision of the woman of today, of tomorrow, of the young generation. The woman in different occasions — when she works, when she is shopping, when she is going to a cocktail or dinner. She has a global experience and big intuition, at the same time she is really pragmatic and the way she talks about it, it is very clear.
So, there’s a t-shirt in the collection. A couple of them, actually. The second reads: DIO(R)EVOLUTION. When the first one appears, there are a pair of boxers underneath the transparent skirt. There are also bustier-styled tops with “Christian Dior” across the straps. In fact, note here that Chiuri is actively using the house founder’s full name, not just his last. She respects the house brand and even references several of the house codes in jackets and skirts while simultaneously moving the brand forward with gilded references to lingerie and twisted fabric and contemporary crocheting.
The final set of sheer dresses is probably the best indication of the direction Chiuri is likely to go from here. She’s won the fencing match against tradition. Next, she’ll move on to employing elements identifiable by her younger audience. She understands that contemporary young women want their clothes to literally say something and uses embellishment through beadwork and applique to accomplish that task.
Interestingly enough, the strongest objections I’m seeing to Ms. Chiuri’s collection are all coming from men who don’t seem to understand that this collection is not here to feed their fantasies. Chiuri is designing a women’s collection that women actually want to wear. The men are welcome to take their sexist opinions elsewhere. Women, by contrast, are excited by the feminity and edginess of the collection.
Maria Grazia Chiuri has gotten off to a fantastic start to her tenure at Christian Dior. The looks are strong, appealing, and have a forward-thinking appeal. Raf Simons and John Galliano were great, but Maria Grazia Chiuri may well exceed them both. We look forward to seeing what’s next.