We breathed a sigh of relief that a Dior show could go ahead within the ambiguous grey area of the Covid era. However, this was by no means business as usual. In contrast to the standard frenzy of photographers, invitees and onlookers, often seen outside a Dior show during Paris Fashion Week, we arrived at a much more subdued scene at the Tuileries garden—the capacity of the show was reduced to just 20 percent to enable social distancing.

Dior SS21
Photo: Courtesy

Inside, it was as though we had been transported to a gothic cathedral, with what appeared to be giant stained glass windows that faintly filtered daylight. On closer inspection, these were in fact giant light boxes, where the facades were covered in large-scale collages. This season sees Dior Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri highlighting yet another celebrated female talent, Italian collage artist and writer Lucia Marcucci. The installation is named Vetrata di poesia visiva, meaning ‘Visual Poetry in Stained Glass’. The images, cut out and reassembled in ‘visual poetry’, were taken from magazines that spoke of important works in Art History. The effect was to reframe discussions of these works into the modern feminist discourse, a subject that Chiuri has explored ever more profoundly each season.

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Female freedom is inextricably linked to how she dresses, and to dress comfortably is freedom. Such is Maria Gracia Chiuri’s pursuit of reinterpreting the codes of Dior into real clothes for modern women. While departing from the extravagance of the archetypal Dior silhouette, its essence was maintained in the Bar jackets, which were transformed into kimono like outerwear (inspired by pieces designed by Dior for Japan in the 1950s), and the sharp suiting mainstay with roomy wide legs and generous sleeves. With the myriad of fabrics in romantic florals, paisleys and stripes, this is the chic Parisian woman going shopping in her grandmother’s attic.

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The high drama of the house, however, was not forgotten. The collection was interspersed with weightless chiffon dresses embellished lavishly with intricate beading and embroidery, showing a Grecian peplos inspiration. These too, in their full sleeves and skirts, exuded ease. As for footwear, simple ballet flats and effortless greek sandals emphasised the wearability of the collection.

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The theme of freedom is abstractly echoed in the live choral performance that served the soundtrack for the show. The piece was Lucia Ronchetti’s Sangu di rosa, performed by 12 women from the vocal ensemble Sequenza 9.3, and directed by Catherine Simonpietri. While the original text of the song expresses the sadness felt by women who have lost their husband or child, the interpretation by the Sequenza 9.3 reflected the contemplation of possible choices for the future. This perhaps is not unlike the types of contemplation that have permeated our collective consciousness in this tumultuous year.