Almost exactly a year ago, Maria Grazia Chiuri made her debut as Dior's womenswear artistic director, grabbing the fashion world's attention with her slogan tee that urged us all to be feminists. For SS18, Chiuri continues with the strong feminist message that has run throughout her collections since her first offering in September 2016, with a new collection that is inspired by female artists (or rather the lack thereof) as well as the female forces of change in the '60s.
Show notes explained that during her research in the Dior archives, Maria Grazia Chiuri's interest was piqued by a series of photographs of French-American sculptor, painter and filmmaker, Niki de Saint Phalle. In one of them, the artist can be seen on a camel; in others, she’s posing for Dior during the tenure of her great friend Marc Bohan, then creative head of the house. Embodying the beauty of her day (that being the '60s and '70s), more adolescent than androgynous, small and fiery, de Saint Phalle exhibits a style of dressing that’s both iconic and personal, and current in its proportions and whimsy. At the time of the liberation of women, Niki de Saint Phalle threw herself into a close relationship with art, the world and herself. Like all artists she was driven by her emotions and it is this feminine creativity that spoke to Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Alongside Niki de Saint Phalle, the question "Why have there been no great women artists?" posed by Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay is also central to Chiuri's SS18 collection, which challenges the traditionally male discourse in art history and fashion. Chiuri pays homage to the work of female artist Niki de Saint Phalle as her most famous creations, namely the Nanas – sculptures of extraordinary women – as well as the multicoloured hearts, the dragons, the tree of love, and the exaggerated and over-the-top masterpiece, the Tarot Garden in Tuscany become patterns, broken embroideries and mirror mosaics in the collection. The mirror mosaics also reappeared on the walls of the white show space within the Musee Rodin. But while the show space remained mostly white, Chiuri experimented with Niki de Saint Phalle’s exuberantly colourful palette in the clothing, bringing to life silk, leather and plastic in bold shades of red, yellow, blue, green and pink.
Sasha Pivovarova opened the show in a quintessentially French look, wearing a Breton shirt emblazoned with the words 'Why have there been no great women artists?' and high-waisted jeans and a denim hat. The collection made reference to former Dior designer Marc Bohan (1958-1960) and his little dresses and jumpsuits, sometimes teamed with full skirts opening at the front. There were also large polka dots, black and white '60s checks, trousers worn with ordinary safari jackets and teamed, according to mood, with men’s shirts featuring fine stripes or polka dots, or of a romantic white, all inspired by the designs of Bohan.
As Karlie Kloss, Naomi Watts, Winnie Harlow, Emily Ratajkowski, Natalia Vodianova, Alexa Chung, Camille Rowe and Bianca Jagger looked on from the front row, the show closed with a series of mosaic gowns in Chiuri's now signature silhouette, with thin 'Christian Dior' branded straps, a cinched waist and full skirt. The beret that featured heavily in Dior's AW17 collection reappeared this afternoon, as well as plenty of casual denim and daywear.
As Maria Grazia Chiuri celebrates her one-year anniversary and Dior celebrates 70 years, it is clear that Chiuri has transformed the French fashion house with a more accessible aesthetic, imbuing each collection with a feminist theme while creating a wearable luxury wardrobe for the modern woman.