I had the privilege of attending Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut show for Dior in Paris this week, and couldn’t wait to see what the first ever female creative director in the history of the house sent down the runway.
The lead up to the show had indicated that she was intent on focusing on the significance of this ground breaking appointment, with an Instagram story with the theme of #TheWomenBehindMyDress setting the scene. It asked the Dior team behind the show – the women of the atelier, the models, the PR team etc – who their female role models were, with a diverse range of responses.
The excitement in Paris was high, and the expectations enormous. From the driver who picked me up at the airport (and spent the trip debating the merits of the different Dior creative directors in chronological order- only in Paris!) through to the hotel staff, everyone was keen to see what Maria Grazia would deliver.
We arrived at the show and made our way inside, where a simple set of wooden runways and seats illustrated the focus was intended to be solely on the clothes, with no distractions. The buzz was incredible, and finally everyone took their seats and the show began.
When the model wearing the t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘we should all be feminists’ and astro embroidered skirt came out I thought the roof was going to lift off the venue, and doubt there was a person present who didn’t fully embrace the girl power messages parading in front of them.
What did I think of the collection? On the whole I loved it. There has been much written about the similarity of some of the pieces to the work she has done at Valentino, but as she has said previously she is a person with a past, present and future and each of those makes up the person that she is today. Beautiful embroidered designs on light fabrics are clearly a significant part of her aesthetique, and it seems she is not afraid to own that regardless of the inevitable comparisons it creates. There were also many harder edged pieces, I loved this navy dress and this feminine take on the three piece suit.
I also enjoyed the nods to creative directors past, with Galliano’s J’adore theme reimagined as J’aDior and Hedi Slimane’s bee featuring on many of the designs.
The thing that influenced my perception most of all though was a moment that I had been lucky enough to witness earlier in the day. I was having breakfast at my hotel when I saw Maria Grazia and her husband sit down at an adjacent table. She was smiling and looked relaxed and without a care in the world, just hours before the eyes of the fashion world would be focused on her debut collection for one of the biggest houses in the world. It was a far cry from the chain smoking, Diet Coke swilling, nerves consuming Raf Simons prior to his first show that we were all privy to courtesy of the Dior and I film, and to me personified the strong, confident woman she believes the Dior brand to represent.
This strength and confidence, combined with the inclusive leadership on display in all of the visible forums, not to mention her formidable talent, tell me Maria Grazia Chiuri is someone I can truly J’aDior. She understands and represents the woman she is designing for, and I look forward to seeing where she takes the house going forward.