Almost 70 years ago, in February 1947, the French fashion designer Christian Dior revealed a small collection based on a single silhouette: a white nipped-in waist and narrow-shoulder jacket, with a black, mid-calf, full skirt that emphasized the bust and the hip of a woman’s body. Dubbed the "Bar" silhouette, this look marked the beginning of modern fashion in Paris and offered a relief to the austerity and the uniformity of wartime fashion.
On Friday, Maria Grazia Chiuri, in her new role as the first-ever female creative director at Dior, took on her first ready-to-wear collection with a similar mission — that is, creating a new silhouette that can appeal to millennials, now the largest segment of new consumers of luxury products.
Of course, athleisure and streetwear are now the fastest ways to a millennial's wallet, and Grazia Chiuri firmly embraced this reality with her own interpretation of Dior’s legacy, mixing in a pro-female narrative and exploration of the female shape. The collection began with the British model Ruth Bell in a simple, all-white fencing vest with an embroidered red heart, turtleneck and cropped cotton jeans; what followed were fencing jackets with sheer tulle layered skirts, black corset dresses with the house’s "J’adior" logo on the waistband and straps, and the au courant white statement T-shirts with black words in capital letters – "WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS" or "DIO(R)EVOLUTION" — and long, black, tulle skirts, concluding with sumptuous camel tulle evening dresses embroidered with leaf and bee motifs.
The fast pace of the models, who wore low heels or sneakers, emphasized the show's sporty feel. Even the formal looks, like an embroidered star sweater over a light-grey sheer skirt adorned with bees, didn’t exhibit the heavy-handedness usually associated with eveningwear. Logos are back in the forefront — here, we saw them on bags, on waistbands, on bra straps and even on heels — in the same way that logos are a critical element in streetwear.
As far as what's likely to be a commercial hit: the black Bar pantsuit, the loose, boat-neck black dress, the red leather biker jacket, the long, single-breasted coat, the white jeans, the logo bags, the camel trench and the white Bar jacket all had that kind of appeal.
It felt as if there was a slight break in the rhythm of the show about halfway through, after the more contemporary, sportswear-influenced looks gave way to the artisanal gowns. The eveningwear seemed to be Grazia Chiuri’s forté, as the techniques and the clothes clearly showed her absolute skill and command. The first half of the show felt less cohesive, as the idea of sportswear did not seem fully developed as a concept around which the clothes can revolve; rather, the fencing-inspired pieces, whether styled with capri pants or skirts, felt a bit forced.
It's now Grazia Chiuri's responsibility to move Dior forward and make the brand relevant for today's consumers, all while staying true the house's DNA. For her debut, she took a first step by injecting a more relaxed and sporty feel into the clothes, but she will need several seasons to fine tune her messages.
Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.