• Text Tempe Nakiska
  • Photography Morgan O'Donovan
  • 4th March 2017

Blue revolution

Maria Grazia Chiuri is the first female artistic director in Christian Dior’s 70 years (bon anniversaire, Dior!) and that in itself is revolutionary. Last season, she introduced her vision for the French house with a collection punctuated with powerful slogans (the ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirts were a smash hit) and a clever, high-low mix of couture keystones with street accents (tulle skirts with fencing-inspired vests and trainers). But with her second ready-to-wear collection this afternoon in Paris, it was clear that her mission at Dior has a lot more depth than just being the first woman at the house.

For Chiuri, this is about reflecting women’s realities at the same time as inspiring them to dream. That’s the magic recipe that made Monsieur Christian Dior so special: in a grim postwar climate, he recognised that women’s spirits needed lifting, and introduced a sensational new silhouette that injected fashion with new glamour and femininity. Obviously the last thing women need today is to roll out of bed and whip on a corset – our fast-paced lives need movement and ease. And that’s what Chiuri’s role entails: being a curator, harnessing the rich heritage that working at a house like Dior affords, from its founder to the output of John Galliano, Hedi Slimane, and Raf Simons. But also presenting your own perspective on it all.

And so she looked to the colour blue. “Among all the colours, navy blue is the only one which can ever compete with black, it has all the same qualities,” Christian Dior once wrote. It became the collection’s overwhelming hue (alongside intermittent stabs of white and black), and a springboard for Chiuri to explore deeper themes relating to religion and social status. She started out with the Chevrier look from the Haute Couture Autumn Winter 1949 collection, fusing it with a sporty interpretation of the pastor’s tunic hood for a series of structured jackets, skirts, dresses, capes and bomber jackets. Then she flipped those notions of spirituality with a series of looks inspired by the other end of the social spectrum: French workwear. The iconic blue worker’s jacket – around since the late 1800s and favoured by French farmers, auto and railway workers – was reimagined in pale blue (another of Monsieur Dior’s favourite shades) via a cropped version worn with jeans, and then a playful jumpsuit. And preceding that was a darker version taking shape as a rework of the classic Dior bar jacket. Relaxed in form, it mixed couture symbolism with street codes, a potent mix of high and low.

But don’t call Chiuri’s output masculine or tough. After all, much of her work through her seventeen years at Valentino was defined by its innate prettiness. It’s just that at Dior she is mixing that softness with an aesthetic that feels both sophisticated and current – like those feminist t-shirts last season, inspired by a TEDx talk given by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and later sampled by Beyoncé. Here, the more relaxed workwear elements were balanced with dashes of structure, and the delicate tulle dresses with nipped-in waists that we were introduced to last season. A couple of these played host to the celestial theme Chiuri explored through SS17 and her first haute couture collection in January: one was embroidered with a silvery moon chart, and another with wave-like motifs – tidal forces to be reckoned with. 

Then there were the accessories. Last season’s trainers were replaced with black boots (some thigh-high – badass), every girl wore a black beret (courtesy Stephen Jones), and most wore a cross-shoulder satchel (these will fly off shelves). Walking to an intent beat mixed by Michel Gaubert the effect was she-means-business, like a 68-strong pack of young revolutionaries ready to take the city by storm. If this be the new Dior, bring it.