Maria Grazia Chiuri has, for the past two Haute Couture collections, indulged in fantastical storytelling through film, beginning with a visual feast inspired by the world of tarot for Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2020. Further explored for the Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2021 film, this tradition of filmmaking has now crossed over to ready-to-wear for the Autumn/Winter 2021 collection showcase.
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As the film begins, we are transported to the Palace of Versailles on a mysterious, misty night, where our protagonist, model Steinberg, ventures into a castle filled with characters from the ubiquitous fairytales of our childhood. But displaced from their worlds to appear together in a single space and time, these characters are darker and mysterious—living up to the film’s title of ‘Beauté Dérangeante’, or ‘Disturbing Beauty’.
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Models in red hooded looks—whether in matching suits in intense floral print, or prim tartan peacoats and A-line midi skirts—were a cross between Little Red Riding Hood and grandma. Laser cut leather pinafores, worn with puff sleeved shirts and lace-up booties, conjured up Alice in Wonderland. Similarly, the argyle motif gown decorated with 3D roses, and the blood red tulle dress with a heart shaped bodice, called forth the Queen of Hearts. An archival rose motif—based on a drawing by Andrée Brossin de Méré—a collaborator of Monsieur Christian Dior, evoked Beauty and the Beast—a fairytale, especially the 1946 Jean Cocteau adaptation that Chiuri is fond of.
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It is perhaps no coincidence that the show is set on International Women’s Day. Chiuri has explored themes of women’s empowerment throughout her tenure at Dior. This season, Versailles’ famous Hall of Mirrors is transformed into a runway, but the giant mirror-lined walls are obscured instead by large mirror frames, pierced with thorns—which bring to mind Beauty and the Beast. Dancers writhe and twist before the frames as if sending out a distorted reflection back into the real world. That the mirrors have thorns may also be a cautionary tale, like Narcissus in Greek mythology, warning of the perils of being preoccupied with style over substance. For Chiuri, who has continued to champion the works and triumphs by trailblazing women throughout her collections, this is very apropos.