Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist slogans, emblazoned onto Dior T-shirts, have proved one of the timeliest expressions of social protest in fashion history.
When she introduced them back in September 2016, Trump, Weinstein and fashion’s very own alleged sex pests, now being outed, in slo-mo by The New York Times, hadn’t yet blotted our landscape.
Now barely a week passes without some new revelation concerning a photographer, a Twitter outcry about lack of diversity or a red carpet’s worth of actresses demanding black dresses.
To say the industry doesn’t know how to react to its own rapidly changing news agenda, other than with a dazed mixture of denial and fabric dye is an understatement.
At Schiaparelli, the diversity of the models had self-evidently increased, but dressing many of the black models in raffia and vaguely generic “African” prints is not a particularly sensitive way to demonstrate a label’s progressive credentials.
Also, the fashion world has just lost a major female voice in Phoebe Philo, who resigned from Céline shortly before Christmas, to be replaced, it was announced at the weekend, by Hedi Slimane, who turned the skinny rock chick aesthetic into commercial gold at Saint Laurent. He has the Midas touch. What he inevitably doesn't have, on current showing, is a female point of view.
Philo's modern, pared back androgyny wielded huge influence over millions of women’s wardrobes, thanks to the high street, which mercilessly filleted her collections for inspiration.
Will those women now get a steer from Dior? Chiuri has already been inspiring the high street since she arrived at Dior. Berets, kitten heels, with ribbon sling-backs, tailored denim, a certain sold-out constellation–patterned dress by a major British chain.
However, this collection may not prove so fruitful. Partly that’s because 90 percent of it was evening wear (does this mean mean the Dior couture client buys her day wear from the ready-to-wear collections these days?). Also, it was mainly black and white. Sombre versus pure, or as that Instagram hashtag might put it, #currentmood.
It made for quite a stark, repetitive show, although repeat viewings revealed more and more delicate details : faultlessly executed guipure lace column dresses, spirals of sun-ray pleated tulle ruffles and impeccably tailored white silk Bar jackets with matching pristine trousers – the very thing for Tilda Swinton or Jessica Chastain at the next awards ceremony (Jennifer Lawrence would probably fall face first into some mud).
These pieces were impressive, but somehow lacked the warmth of previous Chiuri collections which have made them so engaging. And perhaps it’s time to move on from her beloved sheer silk net skirts. Of course a feminist can wear whatever she damn well likes. And of course when a woman designs for women, the gaze is different. Or is it?
There were no bags, and only a couple of shoe styles, including an asymmetric sided court, and a gold sandal, worn with fishnets. Perhaps she’s saving her killer accessories for the ready-to-wear. But there were French phrases tattooed across the models’ collarbones - rousing snatches from Jean Cocteau and other surrealists (“what’s important, when we start out, is not necessarily to understand but to love”).
On their way out, guests were handed their own set of Dior temporary transfers. Dior can’t confirm whether these will be sold to the public.