We should all be feminist because this is (still) a men’s world: «Hers is a world to be discovered, in which she lets you enter gradually»
Her Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s New Voice
The book starts with a preface, few words where Chiuri talks about herself as a woman and designer while explaining the project that involves contemporary artists and photographers who come from different backgrounds. Their photographs evoke writers and activists, intellectuals and painters between modern and contemporary. Except for the architect Bernard Rudofsky, they are all women. Over the years, Chiuri has established a dialogue with Judy Chicago, set designer of the Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 show – where the mantra was ‘What if Women Ruled the World’- as well as with ready-made artist Claire Fontaine for the Autumn/Winter 20-21 collection. Last January Silvia Giambrone transformed the Versailles’ Gallery of Mirrors, using wax and artificial thorns, into a place suspended between fairytale and darkness. Feminine inspirations permeate Chiuri’s creativity, from Claude Cahun’s metamorphoses and self-representations to Tomaso Binga (pseudonym for Bianca Menna), leading figure of the Italian visual and performative poetry of the Seventies. «Establishing a dialogue and confrontation with these women artists, writers and activists, some very distant from me and from fashion, was part of my focus on reasons and situations that I felt were urgent and that I wanted to place at the center of my creative process. And so, starting with Brigitte Niedermair’s shot that immortalizes the iconic statement by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “We Should All Be Feminist”, which stands out on a T-shirt from my first collection for Dior, many images are the result of an exchange with the photographers who have offered a visual narrative to my project. Chimamanda was the key, with her language, with her ability to talk about the female condition even in a fun way. I felt I had to interpret femininity in a more complex way and that it was essential to address the new generation of activist women, even if for the more radical wing it seemed an impossible task to reconcile fashion with being a feminist».
Female fashion photography
Her Dior tackles thirty-three ways of reading a creative line, the challenges of amplifying the message of a collection and the awareness and emotion that it generates. Women portraying women. A multiplication of a creative personality that is reflected in the collaboration with these photographers. «Maria Grazia – says Brigitte Niedermair – knows that photography in Europe is male dominated. For decades fashion photography was a male business, we were given the crumbs. The editor-in-chiefs of the magazines didn’t help much: they were the first to think that seduction had to be born from a male gaze towards women». Niedermair believes there’s still a lot to be done to improve this society into an equal one and fashion must do its part. «Fashion’s task is to improve not only the imagery of style but also its social and linguistic aspects. It is a communication platform active on a global scenario. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s work at Dior, a Maison with such a symbolic meaning and a real point of reference, was a revolution. Aesthetics and ethics, launching messages that convey an awareness and a militant way of being women today. We should never deny the course of history, but we can certainly change it».
Fashion is not just about clothes
Beauty thorough the eyes of these photographers, who either follow Chiuri’s path or interpret it in the light of their own poetics. From Dutch photographer Alique, to the naturalism of Zoë Ghertner, passing through to the work of Tania Franco Klein. From sacred monsters like Nan Goldin, Brigitte Lacombe’s purism or Mexican Graciela Iturbide, to Fabiola Zamora’s sensual colorism. Sheila Metzner uses rare pigments, including the Fresson charcoal process, to obtain an inimitable palette, while Bettina Rheims exerts her interest in femininity through all modulations, even the most erotic and voyeuristic ones and Maripol captures with her polaroid the essence of the creative process and behind-the-scenes moments forever. Sarah Moon, a former model who in the late 1960s devoted herself to the photographic lens, is known for her ethereal stylistic code, based on a romantic representation of femininity. An oneiric atmosphere can be found in the nuanced colors of Lean Lui: suffused tones that express the disturbance produced by emotions and feelings. Sarah Blais records unexpected beauty in everyday life, investigating the relationship between creativity and authenticity while the work of Swedish Julia Hetta, inspired by classical paintings, is filled with romantic influences and sometimes inscribed in illusory architectonical frames. Sarah Waiswa explores in her work social issues of the African Continent and themes surrounding identity, isolation and belonging. Like a seismograph Her Dior records geographies, aesthetics and political frontiers of the world we live in. It escapes the clichés and traces a mapping of what is happening around us: fashion shall be a provocative detonator full of questions. A transformed cartography of ideas. It is no longer just about clothes, but about political concepts and manifestos.
Lampoon review: Io dico Io – I say exhibition in Rome
Feminism, an area Chiuri has deepened over the years and which she has translated as a metamorphic leitmotif in her experience at Dior, of which she has been the first female creative designer. Dior supports the exhibition Io dico Io – I say I which opened on March 1st at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome. A philosophical itinerary conducted through various generations around the female identity, through the gaze of more than forty Italian artists selected by the curators, Cecilia Canziani, Lara Conte and Paola Ugolini. Linked to the sphere of cultural interests undertaken by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the exhibition bears a title that underlines its emblematic significance. ‘I say I’ is a tribute to the second manifesto of Rivolta femminile (Feminine Revolt) by Carla Lonzi, an art critic, founder of the first Italian separatist feminist movement, of which the Roman museum holds the archive. ‘I say I’ as a slogan of self-affirmation, of rebellion and awareness, a statement that stood out at the entrance to the Dior FW 2020-21 ready-to-wear fashion show, conceived with the collective Claire Fontaine. Paola Ugolini, one of the curators of the exhibition, talks about her first meeting with Maria Grazia Chiuri in 2017. «We met in Rome on the occasion of the exhibition Corpo a Corpo. I had the opportunity to appreciate an interlocutor who was prepared as well as an avid reader. Art, politics, philosophy, psychoanalysis and psychology. Feminism is a common thread. Hers is a world to be discovered, in which she lets you enter gradually. Maria Grazia reads a lot: from Lonzi and Gillian Howie to Rosi Braidotti, the philosopher of the Posthuman influenced by Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and by the themes of the unconscious and the female body investigated by Luce Irigaray who reflects on the mystery of the other and on the need for female thinking. Chiuri offered a global stage to artists who, despite their differences, were linked by common objectives along with a constant feminist militancy. With authority she made choices that were challenging: from Tomaso Binga with the sexualization of language, to the lighting installation by Marinella Senatore in Lecce, the bearer of issues such as emancipation and equality, systems of aggregation and conditions of workers. Up to the immersion in the Lacanian mirror bristling with synthetic thorns of acacia, which we could see in the Versailles show by Silvia Giambrone. Maria Grazia Chiuri has managed to do it within a brand that’s perceived as a fragment of French national culture. Thanks to her, today something is changing in fashion».
Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior
In July 2016 Chiuri was appointed as creative director of the Maison Dior. She became the first female creative director in the Maison’s sixty-nine years. In 2021, the book Her Dior: Maria Grazia Chiuri’s New Voice was published by Rizzoli. It features the work of thirty-three photographers who have worked with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Dior. The book illustrates the work of these artists who represent contemporary photography and celebrates the innovative and feminist spirit of Maria Grazia Chiuri.