maria grazia chiuri debuts her dior haute couture
On the first day of spring/summer 17 haute couture shows in Paris, Maria Grazia Chiuri brought new magic to Dior.
© Adrien Dirand
In the queue outside Musée Rodin in Paris where Maria Grazia Chiuri's first haute couture show as Artistic Director for Dior was about to become a reality, one chinchilla-wearing couture client with a tan as deep as her Mediterranean accent assured the other, "It is going to be fantastic. I am sure of it." The girls had been chatting up a storm, trying to pin down when exactly Chiuri's first ready-to-wear collection for Dior - for spring/summer 17 - had arrived in stores, but one thing was certain: product had now hit shelves, and they were both gunning for the We Are All Feminists T-shirt. In the wake of this weekend's Women's Marches in America and Europe, their conversation was totally brilliant. Here were two of the world's one percent planning their wildly expensive, highly feminist spring wardrobes without a hint of added political comment, unconditionally praising Dior's first female designer before they'd even seen her second outing for the house. Had one been able to track them down post-show in the leafy labyrinth you had to find your way through to enter the incredible enchanted forest created in a tent in the museum's back garden, their final verdict would no doubt have matched their predictions.
What emerged in Chiuri's second collection for Dior is this designer's absolute disinterest in pretence. Refreshingly, she captures a theme and its all-important sentiments in a concise presentation—for spring/summer 17 ready-to-wear in a fencing-themed feminist march; for spring/summer 17 haute couture in her unicorn forest feasts, which must have pierced the hearts of every couture client in the room, who still believes in the princess dream. There was ethereal, floaty fairy tulle en masse, adorned to Chiuri perfection the way we remember it from her Valentino days. They were the kind of dresses, which will be swooned over by couture clients and Oscar winners alike, but much like her fencing collection last September Chiuri quickly proved there's a much starker side to her vision for the house. "My clothes are about dreaming but also being wearable and modern," she said backstage. She demonstrated it in sleek tailoring nodding at Dior's signature structuring, but there was a softness to it, which felt new at the house. "Under Mr Dior and Yves Saint Laurent the atelier was very traditional. Under Galliano it became more theatrical and under Raf Simons, more modernist. So, they are very open minded to new ways of thinking," she noted.
At Valentino, Chiuri excelled in an austere silhouette often rooted in Renaissance or Victorian dressing. Her take on that at Dior was equally chilling, in a black pleated floor-length gown with a ruffle collar that wouldn't have looked wrong on Maleficent, or the hooded black Bar Jacket that opened the show, worn over a pleated skirt cut at the ankle. It felt a little bit evil in the fairytale way—Chiuri is good when she's wicked. The designer said the set represented her first season at Dior, mining the archives and settling in. "The labyrinth was about my journey into the Dior ateliers, which I am still finding my way in! There is so much new to me, and the French way is different from what I am used to in Italy, and I don't speak French. But I will find a way. It's a trip." In Chiuri, Dior appears to have a new dreamer on its hands—a grand and magical approach to fashion not seen at the house since John Galliano's reign there. That point of departure brought a warmth and enchantment to fashion on the first day of spring/summer 17 haute couture shows, and right now that feels really, really good. Just ask the couture clients.
Text Anders Christian Madsen