The question of whether or not fashion can (and should) be political has been floating around every runway, city after city. How would the fashion industry, one of the most powerful and influential in the world, respond (if at all) to divisive topics, like a Donald J. Trump presidency, or Brexit? Is it a designer's place to engage in conversations about the current state of the world, using their craft to highlight their position on said climate? Or, should their art be just that...art, free from any personal feelings, allowing their audience to make their own assumptions regarding its meaning?
Since her debut as creative director of Dior last season, Maria Grazia Chiuri has positioned her consumer as a powerful feminist force: The weeks leading up to her first show, the brand used the hashtag #TheWomenBehindMyDress, to highlight the inner-workings of the petite mains inside Dior's atelier. T-shirts that read "We Should All Be Feminists" and "Dio(R)evolution," quickly became It items; the brand recently announced that proceeds from the tees would be going to Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who wrote the former slogan, sat front row, prompting Grazia Chiuri to deliver her own type of female empowerment manifesto, carving out a new future not just for Dior, but for the women who wear it.
On Friday, Grazia Chiuri returned with her second ready-to-wear collection for the French fashion house with the idea of revolution top-of-mind. “The collection is a sequence of pieces that reconnect emotions, feelings, and memories,” the show notes explained. "Inspired by the ample hood, borrowed from the tunics of pastors," the designer "reinterprets the idea of the Chevrier look from [Dior's] Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 1949 collection...revisiting the extravagance of the original hood through a more contemporary and sporty attitude, and the transgressive use of materials: taffeta, velvet, herringbone motifs, knit.”
According to the show notes, Grazia Chiuri looked to blue because it is a "symbol of power, beauty, and spirituality [that] is employed for genderless outfits and to express differences. It is positioned between nature and culture as the color of the spirit, of contact with the infinite, in us and beyond. It initiates a link to the mystery of the moon, the comets and planets that explode on evening dresses of opulent velvet or on degrade tulle that blends into the blue-grey of embroidered lily flowers. Blue fascinates through its emotional resonance, but also its social quality. It encapsulates a real cross-section in terms of gender, age, and social class.”
In his 1954 book, The Little Dictionary of Fashion, Christian Dior wrote: "Among all the colors, navy blue is the only one which can ever compete with black, it has all the same qualities." It would make sense then, that one of Dior's favorite colors was featured so heavily (in the form of denim boiler suits, velvet dresses, tulle gowns, ruffled, tiered skirts, knitwear, (now-signature) bustier dresses, and wide-leg jeans), occasionally punctuated with black and white pieces.
Then, of course, there was Grazia's more obvious political nods: Ruth Bell, now a Dior regular, once again opened the show, wearing a hooded blue jacket belted around the waist, navy cropped trousers, black court shoes, an embellished crossbody, and a black beret. For the finale, all 68 models wore a the same hat – a universal symbol of protest and revolution, worn by armies and activists all over the world. On every seat were white bandanas (part of Business of Fashion's #TiedTogether campaign) that read, "Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes," and was decorated in bees (a nod to Ngozi Adichie's quotes from "We Should All Be Feminists" on Beyonce's "Flawless").
This symbolism is particularly poignant when considering the variety of silhouettes offered: In the collection, there was daywear and evening wear; there were pieces that felt more androgynous alongside ones that were overtly feminine (think: frocks with swirling constellations embroidered above the hem). Basically, Grazia Chiuri’s mission for Dior to cater to every kind of modern woman succeeded.