The house of Dior experienced some major shakeups in the last year. After Raf Simons left his post as creative director, two members of the atelier, Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, took charge of the label’s colossal design duties. Understandably, this unknown duo had trouble continuing the newfound modernity of Dior established by Simons. Meier and Ruffieux’s run lasted four collections, each one more refined and innovative than the last. Alas, though, Dior found a more permanent replacement in Maria Grazia Chiuri, one half of the designer force reinventing Valentino.
Apart from being a couture maestro, Chiuri is the very first woman to head Dior since its inception in 1947, so needless to say her debut ready-to-wear collection back in October was highly anticipated. With the eyes of the world on her, Chiuri showed what Dior should look like in the twenty-first century: self-assured and relaxed with an almost instinctual femininity. I was fascinated watching her version of the Dior woman stomp down the runway in fencing uniform inspired separates and briefs with ribbon declaring “J’Dior” at the band underneath full skirts. It was a welcomed departure from Simons’ somewhat overly intellectual collections and Meier and Ruffieux’s underwhelming ones.
As I viewed the show from the comfort of my bedroom, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen some of these looks before. The balletic quality of Chiuri’s evening-wear and the reoccurring astrological embroidery were tell-tale signs of recycled ideas from her years at Valentino. It takes some time and deep inspiration for a designer to get their footing at a new house, but to merely translate old ensembles from a rival couture label is quite the faux pas. It noticeably underscored Chiuri’s feminist re-revolution of fashion- reminiscent of Christian Dior’s own nearly 75 years ago.
Just a few days ago, Chiuri unveiled her first Haute Couture show for Dior, and while her fairy-tale forest backdrop was promising, it seemed as though she slipped back into her Valentino-laden comfort zone. Remnants from her previous position were, in fact, even more noticeable for this second showing. Culottes from Spring 2015, an off-the-shoulder nymph dress from Fall 2015, a v-neck velvet gown gown from Spring 2016, a multi-color layered tulle confection from Fall 2016, the Dior runway was like a look back at Chiuri’s greatest hits for Valentino. Don’t get me wrong, all 59 looks were breathtakingly stunning, but most of them just didn’t feel like Dior.
There was some signature Dior among the Valentino, revealing to us that when she does do Dior, Chiuri does it really well. A blush ball gown with an embroidered, corseted bodice had a natural beauty to it, but also harkened back to the post-war glamour Dior was built on. A fit-and-flare tuxedo dress and a raffia femme-fleur creation were also very Dior-esque in shape and attitude.
Chiuri was widely celebrated as the woman alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli bringing Valentino back to its former glory, but to succeed at a house with a rich legacy like Dior, she will have to completely immerse herself in its history. If Chiuri can refocus her attention to tailoring, the designer’s knack for effortless femininity would prove magical at the helm of this label.