Having departed Valentino – and her long-time creative partner Pierpaolo Piccioli – in 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri seems to have taken happily to life at Dior. Her first RTW presentation was a fierce feminist statement: refined and delicate on the one hand, yet weaving Dior-printed elastics and with T-shirts that said ‘We Are All Feminists’ in equal measure. Having made a clear break between herself and her predecessor Raf Simons, for her first Haute Couture show Chiuri took the concept of the labyrinth as her starting point, referencing the work of poet and painter Henri Michaux:
‘In the dark we will see clearly, my brothers. In the labyrinth we will find the right way.’ – Henri Michaux
And indeed, an introduction to Michaux offers a generous starting point to present the key strands of Chiuri’s collection. Namely, that with the labyrinth as a motif Chiuri was able to marry the surreal and the mystical within a natural setting. A kind of off-kilter representation that Michaux has played with throughout his poetry and art:
‘But last night, tired of being so isolated, I built, taking advantage of the fog, a jetty as far as the sea. Then, right at the end of t, letting my legs hang down, I looked at the sea, below me, which was breathing deeply.’– The Jetty
While Michaux’s idiosyncrasies offer a dark, dystopian view of himself, Chiuri’s imaginings rendered the existing lexicon of Dior more open and accessible. Her journey into the self – herself here one and the same as the house of Dior – was filled with flowers and greenery, offering a tribute to Christian Dior’s love of flora which were, in his eyes “the most divine of creations. They are so delicate and charming, but they must be used carefully.”
This collection offered a fresh syntax between Christian Dior’s original New Look and a contemporary vision that was all Chiuri’s own. The cinched waists remained, but sheer material and endless ruffles added a contemporary and more ethereal element to Chiuri’s version of the French fashion house’s tale. Pastel colours, sunrise oranges, rose pinks and powder blue drenched tulle and lace. Flowers were delicately embroidered onto the dresses, sometimes with careful restraint though often with unabashed splendour, imbuing pieces with fecundity. In compliment, midnight blue velvets and inky black lace allowed for the full range of her imagination to be demonstrated. Stephen Jones’s trembling fascinators added a delicate touch, conjuring up images of woodland animals lost in Chiuri’s magical forest, a trope emphasised by the range of capes and hoods that folded over and around the dresses.
Audiences were invited to enter the folklore of the house, and explore history through Chiuri’s eyes. Memory mixed with her forward-looking approach to couture combined for a truly imaginative collection, and while her journey may have just begun, she’s is certainly on the right track.
See our favourite designs from the show and the afterparty below.