How do you keep the focus on your cause of progressing the rights of women everywhere, when the world seems intent on regressing them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways? Well, if your Maria Grazia Chiuri and heading up the creative direction of one of the worlds most influential luxury brands, you double down and keep up the good fight.
Each season partnering with women who are furthering the cause or united in the fight, for summer 2024 it was Michela Zucca whose work as an anthropologist (who has also studied the meaning behind the words we weaponise today) served as the basis for the collection.
But how much does a designers inspiration have to transfer to the clothing on display? Can it be wholly literal, come through in the form of a print, or make an obvious statement as a graphic T-shirt? These are the questions many will be asking of Chiuri’s mission with the Dior woman, as season-after-season her clothes, and the world she has built around them will no doubt sell to her loyal global customer base, so does there need to be a grounding in a distinctive backstory. Or would it suffice for the House of Dior to choose to amplify a woman doing the work, raising their profile on the platform as a way to also further the movement of empowering women?
Alongside the powerful theme of the ‘witch figure’ which in some communities would often be attributed to rebellious or free-thinking women as a negative catch-all term, according to Zucca “in alpine communities” she was a leader who took many forms. And taking this theme and generally (rather than literally) translating it into the collection, Chiuri gave us her leading ladies in the form of corporate workers (crisp white button downs in oversized proportions or worn one-shouldered), labourers (utilitarian denim pants, skirted pinafores, or technical parkas), craftswomen or women of the craft (donning sun and nature inspired prints – Zucca lamented in a social media post by the brand of the female leaders extensive knowledge of nature, especially for its healing properties).
The set’s vibrancy – an installation titled NOT HER created by research artist Elena Bellentoni, whose ceiling height messages around body and language i.e. ‘Your body is poetic, your body is political’ were displayed throughout the show – seemed to clash with what felt like a particularly wintery collection, which if it was hitting down in stores for winter 2024 would be just in time for ‘Spooky Season’, especially given the subject matter which has influenced Chiuri. But as seasons are no longer aligning with the calendar – Paris itself was at 75°F when the models took to the runway and feeling like the beginning of summer, rather than autumn – designers are now creating collections which face into all-weather conditions, rather than adhering to any hard and fast rules around black in winter and sheer knits in summer, if it works – as it does here – it works.
THE BUZZWORDS Modern Sorcery. Nature as leader. Ethereal Knitwork. Faded and Frayed.
Look # 53 The symbols of sorcery and astrology are woven into a delicate midi shift dress, not only embedding the legacy of the Houses’ founders beliefs, but also creating a ‘Summer goth’ take on the lace dress.
THE ON-BRAND FACTOR
THE BRAND EVOLUTION
The Dior woman finds a new iteration of her female prowess, taking back the traditional meaning of the word witch and showing how she can lead in work and the world.
The ‘Not Her’ installation while thought-provoking didn’t immediately translate as well as a source of inspiration, whereas Zucca’s work felt fully aligned.
The collection, while broad in scope, felt more suited to a fall season.
THE WRAP UP
The inspiration of Michela Zucca’s work was broadly utilised in today’s collection to show how women can take many forms, and while elements of that influence came through, a dose of Monsieur Dior’s “legacy of superstition” was also applied. As in order for the collection to remain a Dior endeavour, these ideas often found themselves manifested as an infinitely more palatable gothic-style iteration. Intricate black lace dresses trailed with ruffles, the brands signature map print and an almost unrecognisable Eiffel Tower were blurred as if mimicking an old Victorian photograph found in an attic, and there were also tattered knits and glossy black overcoats, sure to appeal whether the message is conveyed at a customer level or not. And due to the sensitive nature of the topic of witchcraft, sorcery, and superstition – in certain regions – this is something which may even be downplayed at retail.
But underneath all the imagery and iconography the Dior woman is still all present and correct, leaning on the past to forge a better future for all womanhood.