Pro-feminist ideals are now a thing at all Dior collections.
Artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri enlisted the help of two female activists to tell the story of her collection: Tomaso Binga, an Italian conceptual artist renowned for using a male pseudonym to protest male domination in the art world (and beyond), as well as Robin Morgan, an American poet and award-winning author.
Binga, in her late 80s, provided the ambient influence with her presence at the show held at Paris’ Musee Rodin and lent her voice in a poetry recital, which kicked off Chiuri’s collection. Reading an Italian passage she had written to accompany Mural Alphabet, a series of nude self-portraits she produced in 1976, Binga spoke about women succeeding in rising above a patriarchy. Her conceptual images on the other hand, lined the walls of the venue’s interior and featured her younger self in body contortions that mimicked letters of the alphabet.
An attempt to literally use her womanly body to speak out, Binga’s visual force supported with Chiuri’s statement to Vogue: “Words are a very important source of inspiration to me… Books aren’t like a film where everything is defined, when you read, you dream,” she enthused.
Chiuri’s opened the show with a look that proclaimed a philosophical statement: Sisterhood Is Global.
Lifted from one of feminist poet Morgan’s penned anthologies, the profound title appeared as a powerful slogan emblazoned in a faded blue font across the front of a white T-shirt. Paired with a corset-style belt that would recur in nearly every exit after, Chiuri picked a full grey maxi skirt to complete the look. This silhouette immediately gave a nod to Dior’s New Look and set the tone for the rest of the Chiuri’s collection. But there was something significantly louche with the Roman designer’s construction. As opposed to the 1947 silhouette, which was more razor sharp, fit and flare, Chiuri’s rendition was more insouciant, celebrated the unrestrained modernity of sportswear and not to mention, smart dressing. “Honestly, this silhouette (Dior’s New Look) is not easy for me, because of some ways, it feels special and special in the past of Dior. The materials were very heavy,” quoted Chiuri in an interview with WWD of yesteryear’s New Look.
Chiuri’s eventual designs saw references borrowed from British subcultures of the Fifties — an timely tie in with the French brand’s traveling exhibition in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum that closes this month.
Photographs of Teddy Girls in 1955, by photographer Ken Russell found their way onto Chiuri’s dynamic and diverse storyboard, in addition to a touching Yves Saint Laurent inspo by way of a men’s leather jacket, which the late designer made for women — no less, when helming the French house in the late Fifties. The Teddy Girl references produced much of the collection’s mannish jackets and clutch or duster coats. Chiuri paired these wardrobe staples with feminine skirts and at times, tapered trousers, which gave the ensembles a fancy, tailored appeal. The looks were rather pulled together yet felt extremely light and easy for a winter season. More importantly, they channelled an Edwardian dandy charm sported by Teddy Girls back in the day.
British fashion is incomplete without its nod to British Mod. For this, Chiuri showed a series of wet look outwear. There was also a mini dress that Chiuri tweaked to look part sleeveless bar coat, part uptown shift dress. Twiggy would have approved.
Check This Box
And then, there were the collection’s ubiquitous buffalo plaid. These lumberjack-inspired numbers not only offered Chiuri’s collection an outdoorsy, glamping appeal but also gave her creations its much desired street cred. They made their appearance on feminine dresses, bustier tops and fringed shawls or skirts but it was on the boyish sports jackets where the sportswear leanings really thrived. Case in point: Two taffeta anorak/windbreakers with the Christian Dior branding splashed across on the front pocket flaps. Consider these babies the collection’s most coveted pieces that will fly off shelves quicker than you can say, “J’adore”.
Tartan prints in another handful of looks completed Chiuri’s check story and paid its rightful dues to British punk. Tailored to — pardon the pun — check the boxes on smart, the well-loved highland print was seen executed in three wearable pieces: A pair of cropped tapered trousers, a woven blanket-style skirt and last but not least, a double-breasted bar jacket with a nipped-in waist that served as yet another homage to Dior’s New Look.
The Blue Period
Christian Dior once said: “Among all the colours, navy blue is the only one which can ever compete with black, it has all the same qualities.”
Chiuri herself has already had a hand in dabbling with this revered shade as early as 2017 for the label’s Fall/Winter collection. Then, showing the enigmatic midnight hue in a range of shades that also included denim, Chiuri was adept in rehashing this same theme but using an arsenal of renewed twists. There were ombre denim pieces, some of which were decorated with botanical embroidery to give it feminine class on top of workwear chic. And then, there were military-style navy jackets that made for perfect add-ons in creating a dapper ensemble — if you will.
The Accessory Report
There’s always a sweet synergy between the season’s ready-to-wear range and the accessories collection. Combining the “anti-establishment spirit of 1950s England with the French New Look revolution,” the Dior website sums up the top picks of the collection most accurately: “A fascinating mix of classicism and subversion, of elegance and rebellion.”
A Head Above the Rest
Chiuri’s collection saw a recurring bucket hat polish off every look that came down the white runway. Some of these floppy hats were crafted out of slick,shiny leather, while others were fashioned in the collection’s cotton/polyester buffalo-gingham check, too. At a glance, the hats appeared casual and boyish but each came festooned with a netted veil that added a sense of feminine newness if not, subversion, too. This is exactly what fashion looks to in order to keep things fresh and unusual. Voguerunway.com even deemed wearing a bucket hat “Dior’s Best Beauty Secret”.
Young, Wild and Free
The street-cool gingham pattern was a key motif within the ready-to-wear collection and it also turned up on several key accessories, one of which includes the new cult classic Dior Book Tote. Also available in the same pattern for the Diorcamp messenger style, there was a youthful and collegiate spin with this use of this outdoorsy check print.
Chiuri played up the Teddy Girl spirit with the choice of kitten heel for all her footwear. On ankle booties or Mary Jane styles, the choice of heel height gave the clothing ensembles its playful and irreverent touch. Worn with ankle socks in some looks, they added a girlish and innocent appeal and not to mention, cool rock ‘n’ roll style.
The collection’s bright palette also saw an update of the famed Saddle in a leaf green hue on the runway. Worn across the body and attached to a thick decorated strap, this reworked classic spoke volumes on ageless style.
The street-cool gingham pattern turned up on several other key pieces including the new cult classic Dior Book Tote, as well as on kitten heel slingbacks, which gave all the clothing ensembles a playful and irreverent touch. Worn with ankle socks, they added a girlish and innocent appeal and not to mention, youthful rock ‘n’ roll style.
Image credits: Runway images courtesy of Dior, artwork by Curatedition. Dior AW 2019 looks as worn on Artiste Rebecca Lim: Styling by Sharon Tulasidas, Photography by Wee Khim, Hair by Dexter Ng, Make-up by Shaun Lee.