Given that Maria Grazia Chiuri took the helm as the first female creative director of Dior just three months ago, the third in the role in five years, and in the process split from her design partner of 26 years, Pierpaolo Piccioli, she could have been forgiven for looking a little nervous, emotional even. But as the celebrities began to take their seats - and it look dioralop spring-summer was a stellar gathering with Rihanna, Kate Moss, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman and Marion Cotillard - backstage the 52 year old, with her bleached hair was wreathed in smiles. Dressed in black tailoring and sneakers, her daughter nearby, she was chatting freely about the influences within her first collection, most notably fencing and feminism. No sign at all of pre-show nerves. "It is a sport for the heart and the mind and it brings men and women onto equal ground," she said, standing in front of a moodboard pinned with sepia pictures of both male and female fencers in their white breeches and padded waistcoats - it is one of the few sports where the uniforms are the same between the sexes, she was at pains to point out. There were also references to Dior's New Look and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book We Should All Be Feminists (and whom was seated front row). "I want to create fashion that resembles the women of today," she further elaborated, "fashion that corresponds to their changing needs, freed from the stereotypical categories of masculine and feminine." She was also looking to make it wearable.
What followed was a show that was a clean break from her past and her predecessors, yet also steeped in her pretty brand of femininity: her elegant floor-sweeping silhouettes, matched with a masculine street-influenced toughness. It began with 14 looks in a stark white palette: model Ruth Bell in simple cropped white cotton trousers, fencing gilet, and leather sports booties, was the first to walk past Piccioli sitting front row next to Alber Elbaz. There were slogan T-shirts and a white quilted leather biker, cropped frayed white denim jeans, prettied up when worn with tulle skirts and dresses. Knitted pants under sheer dresses were worn with bralet tops, fastened with wide cotton ribbon cream straps, printed with Christian Dior (or J'adior, a gently ironic nod to Dior's best-selling fragrance, J'adore, and to Galliano's famous J'adore Dior T-shirts). The logo ribbons also decorated cute sling-back kitten heels and black leather flats, sure to be a sell out when they hit stores, just as the rock stud shoe was at Valentino.
Her and Piccioli's seven years at Valentino lead to a quadrupling in sales, such was their way with creating clever hit accessories. And this was surely a major pull for Dior in approaching Chiuri, an inspirational hiring. And she did not disappoint - the bags came with a reworked CD brass logo and thick guitar straps, in white, black or jacquard. The best had to be the black leather saddle bag, with an oversized brass CD. The revered French house has been seeking a rival hit to the Lady Dior bag, first launched in 1995, and now it comes punked up with studs and a guitar strap.
The only weak point was perhaps the feminist slogan T-shirts, that felt a bit laboured, but will be loved by the Instagram set, many of whom already were using the suggested hashtag - #thewomenbehindmydress - which was drawing attention to the ladies at the petite mains. But the gowns that came one after the other for the finale were as elegant and beautiful as any woman could possibly want. It might be tricky to tell her eveningwear apart from those creations she magicked up at Valentino - there were several similarities; lightest tulle skirts strewn in illustrative doodles, zodiac signs and romantic heart embroideries - but they're a proven red carpet hit. And it is the same hand after-all creating them.
Watch those sales rise.
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