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

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Con­tents -

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.

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