Christian Dior’s latest Anglo-Saxon romance
No French couturier loved Britain more than Christian Dior, a romance reignited Tuesday by his Italian successor Maria Grazia Chiuri, in a Teddy Girl inspired collection.
Call it frocks and feminism; a cunning meeting of Dior’s haute femininity; modern day feminist artists and the frolicking femmes of post-war Britain in the fifties.
Inspired by a visit the recent exhibition, "Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams", in the V&A museum in London, which included a special room devoted to Monsieur Dior’s deep affection for Britain – notably the 21st birthday robe he dreamed up for Princess Margaret in 1951 that she wore when photographed by Cecil Beaton.
“Margaret was always the rebel princess. Choosing Dior and not a British designer at the time was a rebellion. And that got me thinking,” explained Chiuri in a pre-show preview.
The result was a meeting of Dior codes with modern day fabrics and '50s references. Like the big bold deep red and green tartans favored by the Teddy Girls, seen in the cult documentary of the same name. Though made in high-tech fabrics and finishes; and complimented by matching dresses – enticing combinations of tulle and tartan. Even by a series of hats; whether sou’westers; cloches or beach hats – finished underneath by D logos.
Chiuri even dreamed up a more masculine variation of the Bar jacket – Monsieur’s most legendary invention in tailoring. Sending it out in plaid; Dior gray or deep anthracite denim. Another clever Anglo twist was the red clan Stewart tartan skirt, worn with a T-shirt that read 'Sisterhood is Powerful.'
It showed that couturier has been spending lots of time in London where she owns an apartment; and where her eldest daughter Rachele has been studying fine art in London this past half decade at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The set, in the latest impressive collaboration with set designer Alex de Betak, was a giant white tent with dramatic images by Tomaso Binga, an Italian artist famed for her alphabet, which featured naked photos of her in the shape of letters. Four of them – for Dior, of course - made up the front of the tent inside the garden of the Rodin Museum.
For evening, Chiuri sent out some splendidly cut dresses, flared below a nipped waist in the classic Dior silhouette and ruched artfully above. Though this season made in some feather light crinkly technical taffeta.
“You can throw these in a suitcase or a weekend bag, and they will come out perfectly even after a three hour flight,” beamed Chiuri, grabbing one dress in two fists and then beaming as it fell back exactly into place.
It was a strong statement, though a tad too repetitive – we count several dozen skirts cut half way down the shin. But as an expression of contemporary fashion with a feminist twinge and commercial credibility, this was an impressive display by Roman-born Chiuri.
“It’s her finest collection for the house. I really believe she is growing strongly into her role here,” said a relaxed and smiling Bernard Arnault, the luxury baron who controls LVMH, and within it Dior.
Underlying the power of the brand – the Dior front row was packed with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Palermo, Natalia Vodianova, Kat Graham, Morgane Polanski, Gemma Arterton, Charlotte Le Bon, Freya Mavor, Olivia Culpo, Bebe Vio and Eva Herzigova.
Chiuri also concentrated frequently on the waistline creating a series of belts finished at the front like flattened Dior saddle bags and at the back with suggestive buckles, for a little frisson. And, she played with very insider references – like a famed black leather jacket Yves Saint Laurent created for his final Dior collection, at the time a reference to the “blousons noirs” of fifties France.
“I don’t think of myself just as the couturier of Christian Dior. I don’t think many people recall that it was Gianfranco Ferré who developed the Lady Dior bag. It’s a brand that exists in the minds and memories of millions of people, independent of any one of its designers. So, I also see myself as the curator of a unique and great brand,” concluded Chiuri.
In an elegant gesture, the program noted that the show was “in homage to the alchemist of elegance and beauty, Karl Lagerfeld.”
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