maria grazia chiuri completes one year at dior, as the house turns 70
Marking its 70th anniversary, Dior opened a huge retrospective at Les Arts Decoratifs on Monday night, hours after Maria Grazia Chiuri's first year at the house came full circle.
A year into her creative direction at Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri has established her set of rules for how this game is going to be played. On Monday in Paris as the house celebrated its 70th anniversary with a grand exhibition at Les Arts Decoratifs, she summed it up in an haute couture show that reflected both her own brief history there and the decade Mr Dior lived to see his brand thrive, from 1947 to 1957.
The latter was self-explanatory: Chiuri draws heavily on the silhouette the founder invented, so much so that when she executes most of her collection in grey, the post-WWII vibes really hit you. Not even the chirpy tableaux of wooden eagles and giraffes in desert and oasis settings created by artist Pietro Ruffo in front of the Hotel des Invalides could jazz up the wartime vibes, which loaded Chiuri's ankle and floor-length skirts, dramatic overcoats and power collars. There's an at once mighty and pared-down quality to her work, which prevents things from getting theatrical—even if that wouldn't be a bad thing.
The autobiographical element came courtesy of the show notes, which listed Chiuri's relocation from Rome to Paris as inspiration, and her exploration of the globalised, highly forward-thinking mind of Mr Dior. "A complete collection should address all types of women in all countries," it quoted him as saying, and if there's anything Chiuri has learned over the past year of constant promotional trips for the house it's that.
She translated all that worldliness into a female explorer theme, which echoed her debut collection (the one with the 'We should all be feminists' T-shirt) and gave her a chance to follow up on the 'pioneer woman' cruise collection she showed in Calabasas in May. There were many parallels: multi-cultural techniques appeared through this collection, too, and it had that distinctly Roman sense of grounding she's brought to Dior. Chiuri's women might be wearing haute couture ball gowns, but they've got their feet planted solidly in the sand.
In this 70th year of Dior, however, looking back at the designers, who've characterised the house - most of whom were there for much longer than the founder himself - there's a lot to be said for how much that New Look heritage can actually carry. Gianfranco Ferré loaded it with Italian glitz in the 80s and John Galliano took it the highest theatrical fashion highs ever in the 90s. They're arguably the two designers most fondly remembered for their work there, and all for taking chances. In her first year, Chiuri has shown her ability to adapt to the Dior legacy and reflect a certain political zeitgeist. The year to come is her chance to go all out and take it to the next level.
Read: The reign of couture was challenged on the first day of the autumn/winter 17 haute shows in Paris where Proenza Schouler and Rodarte made their ready-to-wear arrival, backed up by cruise shows from Hermès and Miu Miu.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Morgan O'Donovan