Christian Dior: Tree of Life couture
Folkloric couture at Christian Dior, in a show inspired by the idea of the Tree of Life, whose result was majestic mode, finished with technical wizardry and superlative embroidery.
“Undefined folklore,” smiled Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, who covered the walls of the show space in the garden of the Rodin Museum with huge walls of embroidery, culled from multiple cultures and artistic traditions. Yet also referencing Ukrainian artist Olesia Trofimenko’s work, and her concentration on the Tree of Life.
Frequently the collection materials were relatively simple – raw linen, light wool crepes and rough plaids – but the construction was intricate and the embroidery of supreme delicacy.
All made of a color palette in 40 shades of beige – like sand, café au lait, caramel, ecru - with lots of black. Often finished with bands of guipure; geometric patterns in soutache and Slavic bourdons.
Using many of the best resources in Paris like Lesage, with beige boleros and blazers hand sewn with branches, leaves and flowers.
“Giving the current context with the war on television and the never ending pandemic still not over, I think we all have to ask ourselves what is the meaning and purpose of couture?” confided Maria Grazia, in a pre-show preview in her studio on the river Seine.
Her response was a striking commitment to craftmanship, and specialist artisans, though carefully avoiding any sense of national flag waving for particular regional skills.
And why she chose the symbol of the Tree of Life, as it is present in so many cultures. As evidenced by her mood board which included images of shirts from Holland, French smocks and illustrations from a Kyiv folk museum.
“Celebrating craftmanship is something we need to do today,” said Chiuri. Who also harked back to the pure design of the Bauhaus, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in the past few years, and whose whole ethos was the notion that artisans and designers can play a vital role in a politically sensitive moment.
The Italian couturier even referenced the New European Bauhaus, and the idea of 2020 of building a new Continental network of artisans in this difficult historical moment. Not unlike Monsieur Dior, who founded the maison Dior right after WWII, beginning in 1946, and first showing a collection in 1947.
A suitably somber Toccata & Fugue in D Minor set the scene as Maria Grazia’s youthful cast strode by in lace-up mesh Victorian booties, all rather prim and proper.
The aesthetic was understated elegance, and the message was renewal and the cycle of life. Pretty well every look finished in some embroideries, though without being very easy to place their origins. Her silhouette was modest, very little exposed skin, and skirts ended well down the shin.
In Chiuri’s view, motifs and patterns travel throughout countries, overlapping between cultures, again just like the Tree of Life. This was syncretic couture, touching many cultures to create something new.
Tellingly, even if Dior is one of the world’s great luxury marques, its mood board this season included an image of the cover of The Invention of Tradition by the great Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. His theory is that traditions people regarded as ancient – like plaids, for instance - are often very recent inventions of the past 200 years, and indeed date back to the beginning of the nation-state.
So, it felt salutary to witness this Dior collection with its visual call for the free exchange of ideas, the blending of cultures and its aesthetic warning against sterile nationalism.
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