Christian Dior’s couture collection was unveiled on Monday, which may not seem like big news for the wider industry. But in a world where Maria Grazia Chiuri’s slogans, accessories, logo ribbon slingbacks, tulle skirts and female-driven re-imagining of the house have proved hugely influential, it was.
This time the slogans were kept for drawing on the models’ skin – after all, couture isn’t really the forum to make political statements – and the collection as a whole was in no way revolutionary. In fact, for the most part it was more of the same as Chiuri stuck with tried and trusted silhouettes and her favourite muted colour palette (how much more muted can you get than almost-universal black and white?) You can never accuse this gal of flitting from trend to trend.
She also stuck to many of the pieces that have become Chiuri signatures – the simple pantsuits, the grand-but-girlish gowns, the occasional monkish looks, the unexpected prints.
Even though this wasn’t the kind of collection that has the audience ready to lift a designer onto their shoulders for a victory parade, like most Dior collections in recent seasons, it’s a headline-grabber. Not in the “Hedi Slimane joins Céline” mould, but Chiuri does make waves.
That’s because the collections she sends out seep into the consciousness and a few months/seasons down the line we realise that their key items and details have also seeped into fashion’s mainstream.
But regardless of the wider influence, this is certainly a collection that should get Dior’s gilded cash registers ringing, whether directly through private clients buying gala gowns, wedding dresses, and bridesmaid dresses, or through its knock-on effect. Multiple red carpet appearances should drive sales of ready-to-wear, perfumes, make-up and handbags ever higher.
So what did we actually get this time? Chiuri offered up some cocktail hour draped skirts with sheer blouses, an update on the label’s Bar jacket with cutaway neckline, and neat pantsuits with fitted tuxedo or DB fitted jackets in white or black a top slimline pants.
They set the tone for a collection dominated by monotones and acted as a restrained counterpoint to the more indulgent pieces. Underscored by the influence of surrealist artist Leonor Fini, the chequerboard runway and suspended birdcages were replicated as prints and details – a chequerboard skirt on an evening dress or a ‘cage’ construction technique that defined the silhouette.
We also got some feather detailing (best as a line of feathered butterflies on a halterneck), layers of tulle and fringing, oceans of restrained silky froth, and some striking black on white or white on black art prints.
A fondness for fit-and-flare was a unifying strand, as was just a little too much transparency (excessive nipple show slightly undermining the Maria Grazua Chiuri’s much-talked-about feminist viewpoint).
None of it really moved the fashion dial forward but it’s not Chiuri’s job to reinvent the wheel every season. Her job is to generate a positive vibe around the label and create product that will sell (and sell). And there’s no denying that that she’s come up with more clothes that Dior couture customers will really want to wear.