Dior reimagines feminist fashion in history in Paris show
Dior’s affirmed feminist designer Maria Grazia Chiuri used the male gaze, as reflected in female oil portraits across the centuries, to make a fashion statement on female empowerment and subjugation.
But Marc 1’s feisty ready-to-wear display in Paris, set in the splendid Tuileries Gardens, was also just a beautifully conceived collection, one of the Italian designer’s finest, which served to start Paris Fashion Week on strong creative footing.
As editors busily filed past myriad masterpieces, some expressed relief that the French government ruled the face mask to no longer be obligatory at shows.
Yet despite the glamor and optimistic moments, the conflict in Ukraine was not far from fashion insiders’ minds, the Paris Fashion Federation having offered a rare statement in support of freedom.
An installation of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece “Lady with an Ermine” hanging in the entrance led fashion insiders, including popstar Rihanna, model Elle Macpherson and tennis ace Maria Sharapova, inside the venue to discover wall-to-wall paintings.
Though the art at first seemed more at home at the nearby Louvre Museum, on closer inspection the female subjects sported contemporary jarring double eyes and seemed to symbolize a sort of new female vision.
This, the work of Italian contemporary artist Mariella Bettineschi, was Chiuri’s starting block, one she used to explore and deconstruct historic female fashions.
Corsetry, the 1940s bar jacket (the house signature), as well as sheer layering reimagined the codes of yesteryear.
But this time for Dior they were all about protection or armor against the world, with lashings of fashion tech.
Head hung down combatively, the first model sported a fierce, minimalist black body suit with white lines, both like a skeleton and a cutting pattern.
Bright multicolor leather gloves evoked the form of 18th century styles to the elbow, imagined in contrasting biker styles with padding at the knuckles.
A silver bar jacket had dark sporty ribs. Corset-like tops had fastenings made of plastic toggles, in one of a multitude of fashion forward touches. A black perforated corset was stiff and impenetrable.
There were many perfectly executed moments, some of which even evoked a Japanese warrior.
Chiuri was trying to say: Women have been subjugated for so long, so now we’re going to use those same clothes to empower ourselves as we move into the future.
But one question on the minds of fashion critics: Is Dior’s obsession with history perhaps a sign that it cannot move past its heritage to fully embrace a fresh fashion aesthetic?
Of course, there was an elephant in the room at Paris Fashion Week. As bombs fall in Europe, what is the justification for exclusive fashion collections with perfume wafting in the air? There is none. However, Paris’s fashion body has tried to address this thorny point with a statement sent to AP of solidarity with Ukraine.
Ralph Toledano, President of the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, said that as “the greater fashion family gathers for Paris Fashion Week, war has brutally hit Europe and plunged the Ukrainian people into fear and upheaval.”
He suggested that the show continue as creation itself is “based on principles of freedom, under any circumstances. And fashion has always contributed to individual and collective emancipation and expression across our societies.”
The federation issued a caveat, that you “experience the shows of the coming days with solemnity, and in reflection of these dark hours.”