It’s hard to say the same about the clothes
While waiting for the Dior autumn/winter 2023 livestream to begin two hours or so earlier, we thought of Abby Choi. If she were alive, it is possible that she might appear on our screen, and we would be able to see her stand before the photo wall, like so many of the guests (such as Jisoo) did, and allow the photographers to happily snap away. This would be totally up Ms Choi’s street: the celebrities, the clothes, the atmosphere, the show. This season, Dior walked away from the old format of a long wall, on which massive paintings or photographs hang, in front of which the models walk; their profile, their side facing the audience seated as if in a gallery. Now, the models seemed to walk randomly, definitely not on a linear path, among the audience clearly not in a gallery. But it wasn’t the route or the dressed up but bored saunterers, or the mostly front rows that beckoned. It was what was above them.
The set was designed by Joana Vasconcelos, the French-born Portuguese artist known for her massive installations of colorful, fertile, pinata-like shapes, usually suspended from the ceiling. For the Dior runway, Ms Vasconcelos created just-as-colourful, wildly-pattern, abstract mammoth of a centrepiece—also hung from above—that could have been pieced together with giant maracas, some with dramatic stalactitical drops beneath. Each rattler-like piece is elaborately patterned. Between them are colour-saturated, cruller-like lengths of fabrics snaking through the installation like ruffled dragons of a dragon dance. This could be some Eastern bazaar; this could also be some fey bandid’s hideaway. But, to Ms Vasconcelos, it was Valkyrie Miss Dior. Could this then be the Valhalla. Where was Odin?
The Dior presentation was likely not intended for any male god, Norse or not; least of all, male gaze. As with all Maria Grazia Chiuri shows, the latest was a visual paean to the females she admired—another women for women celebration. Only this time the celebratory spirit was not in the clothes (they were usually not). Sure, they celebrated the woman’s body, but could there have been more by way of design? There has always been something repetitive about Ms Chiuri’s output. Perhaps these were her ‘signatures’ for the maison, but it’s hard not to say they were on repeat, insistent even. The white shirt and the high-waisted pleated skirt, the shirt and tie and slouchy trousers, the spaghetti-strapped dress, and sheer, panty-showing skirts—they were all there, some in different fabrics, some rumpled this time, but they were there. For sure.
Ms Chiuri has, no doubt, found her groove. And stuck with it. She’s been with Dior for seven years now, longer than most designers not working for their own house. Alessandro Michelle ended a seven-year run at Gucci last year. Analysts thought that Mr Michele had been doing the same thing for too long. “Brand fatigue” was bandied about. Ms Chiuri has not exactly rejuvenated Dior (more Book totes!), even after her fifth year. She makes “classic” clothes with just-as-“classic” silhouettes (more from the ’50s!) that we are often told exactly what women want. Feminine to the nth degree, for the nth time. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. But season in, season out of the same things mean one thing—repetitive. Is that why the massive, scene-stealing set was required? So that we would be distracted from the same-same? Clever.
Screen shot (top): Dior/YouTube. Photos: Dior