Maria Grazia Chiuri fuses references from the Rome of her childhood with Sixties Dior designs to propose an optimistic post-pandemic future at Paris Fashion Week
Anna Paparetti and le jeu qui n’existe pas
To open Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2022, Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, presented a collection that combined fashion show and performance. Staged before a large audience in a custom-made tent on top of the octagonal pool of the Jardin des Tuileries, Chiuri referenced the Rome of her youth by involving performance artist Anna Paparatti in the design of the show space. Now eighty-five, in the Sixties Paparatti formed part of the avant-garde fashion and music scene that partied in Rome’s legendary Piper Club. Chiuri has been inspired by the artist for the last few years, with interest in Paparatti’s work also seeing a recent resurgence thanks to the ‘Il Grande Gioco’ exhibition curated by Alessio de’Navasques in Rome’s Palazzo Taverna this summer. For the Dior show, Paparatti riffed off the board game-inspired art she produced in the Sixties to create the backdrop and set. Her installation, called ‘Il Gioco Del Nonsense’ (‘The Game Of Nonsense’), was based on childhood favorite il gioco dell’oca (snakes and ladders): the models making their way around a ring of color-blocked twelve-foot wide squares before walking down the catwalk, surrounded by large stop signs, numbered wheels and French slogans such as «le jeu qui n’existe pas».
Chiuri commissioned Paparatti to create this life-sized board game for the show as a reference to the concept that fashion is a game. Amidst the disco ball light show and accompanying electro music from Il Quodro di Troisi, the audiences were invited to «explore the concept of play as a space for questioning reality and opening the doors to the imagination», according to the press notes; setting the scene for a youthful, optimistic and – most importantly – fun collection.
Marc Bohan and his ‘Slim Look’ collection
Since her appointment as creative director at Dior in 2016, Chiuri has been inspired by the luxury house’s founder, Christian Dior. These early Dior references, such as the Bar Jacket, have been present across Chiuri’s collections for the house, where she has introduced new variations of the classic silhouette.
For the playful nature of this collection, Chiuri continued to look at the Dior archive, but instead chose to channel the energy of creative director Marc Bohan, and his 1961 ‘Slim Look’ collection, more specifically.
Designed at the start of the Swinging Sixties, the ‘Slim Look’ collection captured the essence of the Sixties youthquake, with clothes designed for slim and young body types (as the name suggests): emphasizing the modernity and hedonism of the time. This marked a step away from Dior’s famous ‘New Look’ presented in 1947, and moved the brand forward into a new era.
Bohan worked at Dior for more than three decades, making him the longest serving designer in the brand’s history. As well as designing the ‘Slim Look’ collection, he also founded Dior’s male line, invented the house’s most famous pattern – Dior Oblique – and is generally credited with conceiving the structure of the Dior brand as we know it today. In Chiuri’s own words, she «was fascinated with his work from the beginning, because he worked there in the Sixties and for me, he designed for modern women», which is something that clearly comes across in her most recent collection for Dior; with this season marking the start of women’s fashion in a post-pandemic world. If Bohan represented the Sixties shift in global pop culture, then Chiuri is his modern contemporary. As the first woman to lead the creative side in Dior’s history, she has also weaved feminist references through her collections: from a t-shirt emblazoned with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s phrase ‘we should all be feminists’ for her first show, to the quotes from Carla Londi’s manifesto that were displayed during the presentation of Dior’s Fall/Winter 2021 offering: ‘the patriarchy kills love’ and ‘we are all clitordian women’. This feeling of empowerment that Chiuri’s created since joining Dior coupled with the nod to Bohan’s revolutionary ‘Slim Look’ collection have resulted in a show that focuses on fun and performance, but these themes have also created a clear subtext of determination, innovation and newness too.
Maria Grazia Chiuri and a new ‘New Look’
It is this sense of newness which highlights how Chiuri is able to look back at the same time as looking ahead. Given that Bohan was the longest-lasting creative director at Dior, it’s perhaps surprising that his work hasn’t been referenced more often: making Chiuri’s offering for Spring/Summer 2022 all the more refreshing.
Her work is often described as youthful and making Bohan’s ‘Slim Look’ collection a fitting jumping off point for her. Sixties-style A-line babydoll dresses, mini shift dresses and color-blocked brights all offer a fresh take on the more ladylike demeanor associated with Dior. The clean lines and boxy silhouettes are more reminiscent of popular Sixties designers such as Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges and Mary Quant.
Rather than dwell on the past, Chiuri also reworks it in this collection by applying her own modern twist. To this end, some models walked the runway in solid color boxing-inspired gear: athletic bra tops and silk shorts featuring ribbed slogan waistbands came in paintbox bright shades of blue, yellow and green. The footwear also fuzed classicism with comfort, from sneaker-inspired Gladiator sandals to square-toed Mary Janes with small heels. These leisurewear touches tap into the rise of comfort dressing since March 2021, and hint at the fact that they will take you into post-pandemic life along with the rest of the collection.
Chiuri’s designs this season certainly mark a move away from the frothy tulles and pleated gowns of her previous collections for Dior: proposing both a more youthful take on femininity as well as a strong and emboldened one.
In what could arguably be considered as Chiuri’s new ‘New Look’, to some extent Dior Spring/Summer 2022 was all about the unexpected which somehow makes complete sense in ‘Il Gioco Del Nonsense’ that we call fashion.
Dior and Maria Grazia Chiuri
Dior is a French fashion house founded by Christian Dior in 1946. Dior quickly became famous thanks to the founder’s ‘New Look’ collection in 1947; with the full skirts and cinched waist silhouettes representing post-war luxury and femininity in women’s fashion. Maria Grazia Chiuri has been the creative director at Dior since 2016, making her the first female artistic director in the brand’s history. In 2019, Chiuri was awarded the Légion d’Honneur: the highest French order of merit.