Feminist and Feminine: Dior’s First Female Designer in its 70 Year History Made Her Mark at Paris Fashion Week

Maria Grazia Chiuri Photo by: /AP Photo/Francois Mori/Via Newscred

by Fashion Director, The Daily Telegraph and Lisa Armstrong, The Daily Telegraph, October 3, 2016

Feminism is all the rage on the catwalks this season. Dior’s latest show had a girl-power soundtrack and T-shirts emblazoned with the instruction that, “We should all be feminists,” taken from the title of an essay written by the Nigerian born Chimamanda Adichie.

Purists may shudder as fashion co-opts another virtue signalling cause while it continues to demand that already thin models lose more weight. But Maria Grazia Chiuri is the first female designer at Dior in its 70 year history and this was her first collection. If anyone is entitled to question how feminism and femininity should look and sound at this most feminine of houses, it’s her. If you believe that elegant, comfortable clothes can foster confidence and a sense of well-being, there was a lot here that was empowering.

Like Donatella Versace, who had a similarly female-bolstering soundtrack at her show in Milan last week, Chiuri, who previously worked at Valentino, put sports clothes at the heart of this show, beginning with a series of white and black fencing jackets and skinny trousers in canvas and leather before metaphorically whipping off its helmet, loosening its hair and stepping out in a series of exquisitely embroidered gauzy dresses.

What should we make of those stern fencing suits though? There were quite a few, and although Rihanna, sitting front row, may climb into one for her next performance, I thought Chiuri may have lost her audience at one point.

As the show progressed however, the references became wider, softer and increasingly Dior-like. Make that Dior-light, because the tulle ballet skirts and embroidered voile backs had a featherweight charm and delicacy that Dior has sometimes lacked.

This is a house, let’s not forget, whose image was forged in the theatrical architecture of Christian Dior’s 1947 New Look and those images still burn bright. But almost no-one dresses like that nowadays and however tempting it may be to trot out New New Looks, Chiuri was right to focus on function and moment, neither of them qualities immediately associated with this label.

Not that tailoring - or the waist obsession - were absent. There were those fencing jackets and gilets, but also a clutch of impeccable blazers: in ivory or black, the perfect length, narrowness and construction – neither overly severe nor tricksy.

The more you looked, the more there was to like: beautiful, understated saddle bags, dainty kitten-heels, sling-backs with dressmaker-tape straps, chic, streamlined trainers (with enough J’adore Dior branding on some of them to please the status-junkies) and exquisite embroideries, not just of bees (Christian Dior was an early enthusiast for biodiversity) but of illustrations inspired by Chagall, Cocteau and Dali – all friends of Christian Dior.

True, the eveningwear bore similarities with Valentino, but she made it sexier (corset alert) and more structured. Chiuri has clearly been looking both at the archives and at the athleisure that millions wear today. She earned her applause


This article was written by Fashion Director, The Daily Telegraph and Lisa Armstrong from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.