Ever since Maria Grazia Chiuri began her tenure as the creative director of Dior in 2016, she’s routinely used the runway as a platform to speak about women’s issues. From celebrating female artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Niki de Saint Phalle, to sending models down the runway in t-shirts that said, “We should all be feminists” and “Why have there been no great women artists?” the brand’s first female artistic director isn’t afraid to make her clothing pointed, and political.
As was the case in Paris yesterday, when Dior showed its Spring 2020 Couture, which featured a collaboration with landmark feminist artist Judy Chicago (the creator of the famed “Dinner Party” installation). As WWD reported, Chicago designed the set of the show at the Rodin Museum, and it will be on view to the public through January 26. Together, Chicago and Chiuri brought to life what was meant to be a public sculpture from 1977 — a birth canal, according to Vogue, where a group of models-as-goddesses descended down a womb-shaped runway. According to Dior’s Instagram, Chiuri saw the runway show as an opportunity to “recall the unstoppable creative force of women.”
Vogue reports that during a six-month period, the designer’s conversations with the artist brought about the idea of “pagan worship of goddesses and the struggle of women artists to find their own means of expression within the female-excluding patriarchal system of western art.” This sparked Chiuri’s memories of Italian statues in Rome: On Instagram, the brand shared that the collection drew “inspiration from classical representations of goddesses, such as Athena. Her majestic allure is a neo-platonic allegory of beauty, combining intellectual strength and aesthetic harmony.” Influenced by Greco-Roman peplos, drapey details were applied to flowy golden gowns, tailored suitings, and skirts, with models wearing crowns and strappy Roman-style sandals.
“The collection's key motifs — wholesome, golden ears of wheat — recall the unstoppable creative force of women,” the Instagram post continued. Another one detailed how Chiuri updated Dior’s iconic “Bar” jacket by tricking out tailored looks in “precious metal shades and draping worthy of a goddess.” With a finale dress that incorporated a sequined moon — an ancient symbol of femininity — the runway was lined with embroidered banners created by Chicago and a women’s group in India, with one at the end that asked: “What if Women Ruled the World?” In a time when women are fighting for equal pay and representation across all industries, this is a solid inquiry, but not necessarily a new one.
Though Chiuri’s unwavering dedication to discussing (and posing valid questions about) women’s issues through the runway is noble, her couture is still only ever donned by young, thin, and able-bodied models. In order for Dior to truly transition into a brand that stands for sisterhood, it would be smart to take a note from brands like Chromat and Savage x Fenty, who recognize that feminism in fashion only works when it embraces everybody — with the runway as the ultimate source of inclusivity. As it stands now, the collection — while gorgeous — isn’t doing much to upend couture’s status quo approach to women, and their bodies.