Maria Grazia Chiuri likes to ask questions. When she started at the house, her big one was how to handle the Dior legacy? “We have to speak about femininity, but what does that mean today?” In answer, her quest has been to put a youthful, feminist spin on the house’s feminine legacy. If Mr Dior has his ‘flower Women’ (as he referred to his muses) in the 1950’s she has her global army of empowered young women, looking for a vision of femininity that speaks to them. And whilst there are no slogan T-shirts at couture, (Chiuri saves that for Ready To Wear), there are still questions to answer. Namely, how to respect the age old institution of haute couture whilst making it feel modern and relevant? Chiuri went back the craft – the true integrity of couture – to find an answer. She lined the walls of her vast tented show space with toiles – the ghostly cotton prototypes of couture designs. With the atelier at the heart of it, she presented a collection of maestro cuts and haute techniques. The signature bar jacket came with pleated sleeves that gave the hourglass silhouette a dramatic flourish. Fine georgette was gathered into gracious floor sweeping gowns that had a balletic grace. The colours – honeyed neutrals – and the silhouettes were deceptively simple but the work it takes to get fabric to fall and move with such lissome lightness lies in the skills of the Dior atelier. There were typical couture flourishes. A bell shaped gown was covered top-to-bottom in intricate floral embroidery; one dress seamlessly transitioned from delicate chiffon at the top to a skirt of luscious feathers below; a coat depicting an abstracted woodland scene was made of hundreds of patch-worked pieces painstakingly stitched together. But the pieces that left the most lasting impression were unadorned. The show ended with six majestic ballgowns in heavy satin. Lean and minimal, they brought the air of modernity that Chiuri strived for. Take away the beads, flounces and frills and you get to the soul of couture. The purity of the silhouette, the exactness of the cut and the wonder of the craft were plain to see.
By Claudia Croft.
Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans