Dior delivers 1960s feminism to a new generation in Paris

Maria Grazia Chiuri continues theme of female empowerment but with a more tomboyish edge

Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female designer of Christian Dior, has a specific idea as to her role in the new wave of feminism. Fashion, she believes, represents the public face of femininity. “My job as a designer is to create the wardrobe for the image that women want to portray of themselves,” she said backstage at Musée Rodin, after a show which opened Paris fashion week. “We have to listen to women, to hear what is the point of view of women now, of the new generation.”

It is four seasons since Grazia Chiuri’s opening gambit as Dior designer was a T-shirt reading “We should all be feminists”, and the cry is as loud as ever. The venue for the latest show, an ultra-modern boxed marquee in the museum garden, was papered inside and out with slogans of female empowerment, such as “Women’s rights are human rights”, slapped on top of vintage magazine covers.

Slogans of female empowerment were emblazoned on the catwalk
Slogans of female empowerment were emblazoned on the catwalk. Photograph: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

The theme for this season emerged when Grazia Chiuri visited It’s Just a Beginning, an exhibition about 1968 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in her native Rome. Back in Paris, she examined the Dior archives for that year and found a photo of young women outside a boutique in the city holding placards reading “Support the miniskirt”, a protest against the conservatively long hemlines by the label’s designer at the time, Marc Bohan.

The season’s opening look was a sweater with a feisty intarsia logo
The season’s opening look was a sweater with a feisty intarsia logo. Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

“And then I discovered that Bohan’s response to this was to introduce the Miss Dior line, to give these younger consumers what they wanted,” Grazia Chiuri said. “I thought it was so interesting to see fashion listening to women. And there is something about now that is similar to 1968. This is another moment when everything is changing.”

The female empowerment slogan has become as central to Dior under Grazia Chiuri as the full skirt was to the house in the days of its founder, and this season’s opening look was a feisty intarsia sweater reading “C’est Non, Non, Non et Non”. There was a more tomboyish, less delicate air to Dior this season, with fewer ballerina-length hems and visible bra straps. Instead, there was an appealing new skirt shape in elegant pleated kilts with Dior-stamped waistbands, and blazers which abandoned the traditional bar curve at the hip for a more laid-back line.

Bianca Jagger, who was rocking elegant unisex tailoring in 1968 when she wore Yves Saint Laurent’s then new Le Smoking suits, was a special front row guest. But it was those pieces which revived 1968 most literally – patchwork jackets and ponchos – which seemed the least likely to be successful in appealing to a millennial audience for whom the 2000s are vintage and the 1990s are fancy-dress retro. The looks which riffed on the new Dior aesthetic that Grazia Chiuri is defining – block-capital logos under transparent layers, tailored jackets with fluid skirts, handbags in the revived classic blue-and-white house monogram – were those which promised to spread the word.


Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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