COMING ON STRONG
Riding high at her cruise 2019 showing, Maria Grazia Chiuri has put bold women at the heart of the Dior universe — and we love her for it, says KELLIE HUSH
ILOVE meeting hardcore fashion fans and hearing their ‘hunting’ stories. I have a friend who travels the world in search of coveted Hermès handbags, her last purchase being a cute red Kelly she bought in New York. I once worked for a guy who flew his PA from Sydney to London to pick up a rare watch, as well as his favourite silk socks from Savile Row. another friend is a diehard Dior collector, especially since Maria Grazia Chiuri took the helm as artistic director in 2016. I saw this friend only last week and she was wearing look 19 from the house’s S/S 2018 collection, an oh-so-chic all-in-one sheer polka-dot dress with a daring pair of undershorts. She looked amazing. But what was even more impressive was her single-minded determination to find that dress in her size. It was sold out in Sydney, Melbourne, Paris and Saint-tropez. But then, while in transit in Russia, she spied it on a mannequin at a Dior airport boutique and, with just 25 minutes till her next flight started boarding, she was inside and — woo-hoo! — the dress in the window was her size, off the mannequin it came, and boom: heart’s desire fulfilled.
Chiuri is a genius at creating such desire, and her cruise 2019 collection will no doubt have Dior fans lining up for her heavenly ‘Diorodeo’ lace dresses, Bar jackets, full skirts, trench coats, boots (rubber ones, too!), wide decorative belts and her latest take on the cult Saddle bag. BAZAAR contributor and British fashion editor Lisa Armstrong was so impassioned after the show that she immediately took to Instagram to voice her strong opinion: “Anyone who still thinks that Maria Grazia Chiuri is somehow not quite up to the job should see the clothes from cruise ’19 up close. And if that’s not possible, wait till they’re in a retrospective — because they will be,” she posted. “This collection is a highpoint in her continuing project to make Dior relevant but also notably couturelike.the New Look will always be a reference for all Dior’s creative directors, but she’s turned it into something women are actually wearing. And by the way, those frothy tulle skirts aren’t the same-old, same-old: she’s refining and reinventing them each season. Ditto the Bar jacket, which is now so stripped away — to a cotton shell with no visible boning and zero padding — it’s like the acoustic version. The constant refrain about Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior, that it’s ‘too wearable’ or ‘too commercial’, as if those were crimes, is plain insulting — and, when you look at the streetwear obsession at other houses, downright ridiculous. Or maybe it’s because she’s a fiftysomething Italian woman rather than a 30-year-old Dj-slash-designer. I hope the powers that be block out the naysayers, because this is a label giving a lot of women clothes and accessories they want to wear.”
Armstrong nailed it. I was lucky enough to be backstage before the cruise show, which was held in France, within the stone walls of Domaine de Chantilly’s historic Grandes Écuries stables, and the collection is breathtaking. I wanted it all, head to toe, including the low ponytails created by hair legend Guido Palau. A key motif of the collection is the toile de Jouy (a classic French print developed in the 18th century and characterised by repeated complex vignettes), which Chiuri has given a modern makeover on trench coats, skirts, jeans and new-season bags. And, of course, there’s also the heavenly — and I mean heavenly — Chantilly lace dresses, skirts and blouses. “This season, we decided to speak more to our heritage and to stay in France, and Chantilly is very close to Dior,” Chiuri told me backstage an hour before the show. “[Monsieur] Dior worked with Chantilly lace a lot and you can see in this new collection a lot of lace and craftsmanship. And also with my heritage, because my family comes from southern Italy, there’s a lot of tradition in lace there also.
“Toile de Jouy is an element that is very Dior.the first store was covered with toile de Jouy,” Chiuri continued. “it’s very French, but we decided to make one that is a bit more savage, with animals — tigers, bears and giraffes. there are also animal motifs in the jewellery.”
Chiuri’s now signature fashion feminism also features in this new collection, if not as prominently as with past seasons’ slogan T-shirts, which proclaimed “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE”, “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” (quoting novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and “WHY HAVE THERE BEEN NO GREAT WOMEN ARTISTS?” At the cruise 2019 show, she got her message across with the help of a moving performance by a band of traditional Mexican escaramuzas, female horse riders who have claimed the right to participate in the charreada, the equestrian practice of performing several challenging routines before a crowd, just as the male riders do.“they are a team of eight, and only women,” Chiuri explained of her Dior-clad riders. “they ride in their traditional dress and I really appreciated the fact that it’s so masculine but also still feminine. I think that is a good message because sometimes women believe that to work in a man’s world they have to change themselves. that is not true!you can go to work in a beautiful lace dress!”
In the show notes, it says Chiuri was also inspired by Isabelle Allende’s best-selling 1982 novel, The House of
the Spirits, “with its portrayal of independent female characters”. Hence wide-brimmed straw hats, created by Stephen Jones, worn with white dresses, embroidered according to traditional dressmaking methods, with lace inlays given graphic impact with the use of black.
When I asked Chiuri to elaborate on her choice of muses, she said she actually has just one true muse and that is her daughter, Rachele Regini, who is in her early twenties. “she is very close to me and she represents, in a way, the future. She is a muse for my job and my life, and I think it’s very important to speak to a new generation of women in my job, so she is a reference and I have the opportunity to see her every day. when I speak to her, I understand more about the new generation, and when I speak and listen to her friends, and my son [Nicolo], too. I hope I work well in fashion because [through] them I understand a new generation.”
Did I mention it rained at the show? The heavens opened and it bucketed down on the escaramuzas, their horses and the models, but I didn’t notice as I was too enamoured by what was in front of me. Quite simply, it was, and is, what women want.
“Sometimes women believe that to work in a man’s world they have to change themselves. That is not true! ” – MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI
Christian Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri (at front) with models wearing looks from the cruise 2019 collection.