Schoolgirl Sass

Dior’s fall 2022 is for the very young?

At the end of the latest Dior show, Maria Grazia Chiuri took her usual bow, wearing a varsity jacket of the Ewha Womans University (actual name). It confirmed what we were thinking while watching the livestream of the show staged in the 185-year-old private school: she is creating her own ‘campus chic’. This is, of course, nothing akin to what you’d see in the corridors of NUS, where fashion is secondary, but the xiaomeimei (小妹妹) vibe is unmistakable and the look-at-my-young-abdominal flaunt apparent. This is collegiate girliness lensed through the Dior studio, with the usual plethora of sheerness and a paucity of innovation. Liberal education in the company of rote designing for an increasing homogeneous sorority.

The show might be staged on the grounds of an institute of higher learning, but it seems to stop at the steps of virtuosity and brilliance. Or, as the British indie rock girlband Wet Leg sang out in the opening track of the show proper, 2019’s surprise hit Chaise Lounge: “I went to school and I got a degree. All my friends call it ‘the big D’.” While the song is deliciously irreverent and so incongruous to the do-your-best ethos of varsity pursuits, the clothes have less the cheek that one might expect to reflect those individuals inclined to provoke, if not challenge the status quo within the relative safety of academic walls. They lack the lyrical playfulness of the Wet Leg song; they are, at best, catchy, but vacuous.

There is, unsurprisingly, the undercurrent of feminism that is tagged to Ms Chiuri’s work for Dior, if not the past overtone. The 88-look presentation opened with a group of skateboarders—all girls—displaying their fancy footwork, with almost a machismo that seems to dispel any belief that skateboarding is a male sport or that girls can’t be good at it. All that as-strong-as-the-guys sporting excellence, however, does not preface the extreme femininity of the styling that Ms Chiuri has embraced. While some of the looks could pass off as ‘andro’ (even if only in the attitude of the models), most are a reprise of her brand of cool-girl ethos and emptiness, including the oddly omnipresent tie, neckwear that guys are fast abandoning, even among those working in banks. Now, more incongruous on the built-for-the-show skatepark.

It is often said that the Fall—aka pre-fall—or any ‘pre’ collection is a more accessible take on the main RTW. Dior’s vision is not spectacularly differentiated; it is the Dior that has become the Dior of Maria Grazia Chiuri: those unstoppable sheer skirts, the white-shirt-as-base-garment, workwear-as-sportwear, as well as corny sports clothes, bicycle shorts under feminine skirts, negligee over shirts and such, belted dresses of various lengths, and high boots with everything. And if the schoolgirl has a prom to attend or a fashion show at its school compound to grace, there are always the sexy evening dresses. When the young need to impress their peers, sometimes, as Gen-Zers have repeatedly shown, not that much effort is needed.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Dior

Hint Of The Literary

Dior’s next season for men is inspired by the American novelist Jack Kerouac. Kim Jones is again a wanderer

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars” — On the Road: the Original Scroll, Jack Kerouac

The next season’s collections are showing earlier and earlier. Sure, the end-of-season sales have begun, but we have not celebrated Christmas. Yet, somehow brands are certain that we like seeing what we might desire to wear (at least) nine months later. Dior’s fall 2020 (with some reports labelling it as a “pre-collection”) appears just a day ago, and around the same time as the collection shown in Florida in 2019, also labelled “fall”. Based on the absence of winter coats, it is quite certain that the autumn/winter season will be staged in January next year. And, with the show brought to London, we can be quite certain that the not-in-Paris showing is resort/cruise/pre-whatever. Does it really matter? Would we remember?

Kim Jones may have brought the fall 2022 collection back to his home in London, but for the clothes, he had America in mind. A very specific America, based on the work of the Beat-Gen novelist/poet Jack Kerouac, whose contemporaries include Allen Ginsburg and William S Burroughs. Mr Jones’s fascination with the writers of literary movements first manifested itself early this year with his debut Fendi haute couture collection, which was inspired by the British Bloomsbury Group, a set that included Virginia Woolf, which prompted the press to suggest that he brought “Virginia Woolf chic to Paris”. There was nothing Woolfian about that collection. Similarly, it would be hard to find anything Kerouacian about the latest Dior.

But, Americana is evident. It is, however, not the Americana that Raf Simons imagined for Calvin Klein when he briefly designed for the label. Nor, Stuart Vevers’s for Coach. Mr Jones approach is more, shall we say, an amalgam of sources, not necessarily from the author of On the Road himself, who was not especially noted for his sartorial strength, even if he was considered a “looker”. Prior to attaining fame as a writer, Jack Kerouac was a sportsman (he played [American] football in college, before he dropped out), a gas station attendant, a construction worker, and, very briefly, a marine.

Mr Jones had elements of workwear in the collection, but a few pieces looked to be inspired by what Junya Watanabe has been doing for years, including the contrast-coloured straps on the outers. Or those blazers with contrast utility pockets an additional shirt placate. Even those Fair Isle sweaters, were they not explored in Mr Watanabe’s current autumn/winter collection? Sure, there is a vague ’50s vibe in the collection, but missing is the certain roughness—aided by sex, drugs and jazz—that unabashedly described and played up in On the Road. The only literal association is the set of the show: a reported 80-metre long scroll that represents Mr Kerouac’s own 120 feet (36.5m) long manuscript for On the Road, that according to lore, was written in three weeks.

The Dior fall 2022 collection does not appear to be put together in such a haste. And, that, to us, is perhaps why it looks so inauthentic. To be fair, it is one of Mr Jones’s better collection, but if the Beat Generation is noted for their waywardness and rebelliousness, the clothes seem too composed and calculated, and devoid of the risk-willing and devil-may-care attitudes of the youths that one sees from reading Jack Kerouac. Was there too much concern with the street to be aware of being on the road? There is no denying that Mr Jones’s Dior embraces elegance, but some styles appear to be from the Giorgio Armani play book, in particular look 39—the mocha-coloured, asymmetric, stand-collared leather jacket (itself seemingly like a fitted take of a vintage Swedish army motorcycle jacket), teamed with mottled grey wool pants. To strengthen the likeness, the model wore a beanie and a pair of sunglasses. Search as we have, no image of Jack Kerouac came to us that way.

In On the Road, Mr Kerouac wrote: ”The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles.” We are not hoping that Mr Jones—or Dior—become this mad (although that would be great), but we really wish to see something burn, even if just a flicker.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Dior