Christian Dior finds magic and roots in its cruise collection, but in Puglia not Paris
Dior unveiled a magically infused cruise collection on Wednesday night in the main square of Lecce in Puglia, the home region of the father of the house’s couturier Maria Grazia Chiuri. An homage to her country, in a unique display of Italian savoir-faire and ancient artisanal skills that harnessed the mystical roots of southern Italy.
A collection that expressed the myths and rituals of Puglia – like the Tarantula dance, where Chiuri referencing Italian anthropologist Ernesto De Martino’s theories of the dance’s magical dimensions.
Due to the pandemic, the show was staged before a handful of friends and family. Nonetheless, the sheer production was lavish, with intense dance playing a leading role. Chiuri invited in Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal into a giant piazza in Lecce, the dancers building to a frenetic climax evoking ancestral rites. Previously, Eyal has staged a brilliant display of her dance troupe for Dior’s ready-to-wear collection staged inside Longchamp racetrack in September 2018.
Backed up by a custom-made soundtrack from Paolo Buonvino, who composed the haunting music to Le Mythe Dior, Matteo Garrone’s brilliant surrealist film made for Dior’s recent haute couture collection. Buonvino developing an “alliance of cultures” for this show, blending electronic music with the orchestra of the Fondazione Notte della Taranta. While the dancers leapt, slid, pirouetted and emoted in a way that captured the somnolent energy of Puglia.
“I began this project last November and I went to Puglia and did all the research, which to me is the point of cruise. Voyaging to different parts of the world and working with local artists to create something new, in somewhere new. And I thought, despite the pandemic, that we had to present this collection there. Respecting social distancing of course,” explained Chiuri, who vacations annually in her father’s old farmhouse just south of Lecce. She took her bow at the finale amid the dancers, not the models.
Hard to envisage a more evocative setting, the giant Piazza del Duomo of Lecce, reconfigured with Luminarie – giant light lighting gantries that the Pugliese love to erect on churches or city streets for their traditional city fetes. But revisited by the artist Marinella Senatore - adding another layer to a complex dialogue of cultures and crafts in this show. Senatore once installed a mammoth luminarie on the High Line reading Give Your Daughter Difficult Dreams, very much in synch with the committed feminism of Chiuri’s reign at Dior. The house’s famed atelier also went into overdrive producing some delicate luminarie tulle cocktails that will surely be coveted by Dior followers.
The whole collection rippled with references to the heel of the boot in the Italian peninsula. Like the traditional straw men made of raffia which morphed into a whole new design concept. The couturier also playing with classical motifs of flora and nature, creating refined looks, like an exotic black suede bustier, delicately embroidered with mountain flowers and bearing the motif – 'Les Parfums sont les Sentiments des Fleurs', or 'Scents are flowers’ sentiments'. Part of a series of some 250 drawings created especially for this collection by Maria Grazia’s good friend artist Pietro Ruffo, taking inspiration from Giovanni Battista Ferrari’s 1638 book of illustrations De Florum Cultura.
The evocation of Puglia operated on multiple levels; such as the 'Tombolo', a style of lace developed in the 15th century, made by hand painstakingly, using a paper sketch strapped on to a cylindrical cushion. Seen with finesse in some beautiful straw-hued mesh evening dresses and ladylike tunics with matching lace butterflies, that managed to be simultaneously earthy and dreamlike. Even the bar jacket got a Pugliese makeover in fabrics from local artisans at the Constantine Foundation.
“Tombolo reminded me of where certain of my passions were born. My grandmother used to do tombolo. All of the ladies she knew did too. But it was considered domestic work. This show helps people realize that this is an artistic statement. In Italy, we still do not value our artisans enough. It’s a great part of our culture,” smiled Chiuri in a pre-show preview in Paris.
This Dior show also marked the end of a unique summer season of shows and presentations in Europe, where almost every collection was an online experience, with practically no life models.
'Tessuti Calabrese', an antique form of weaving also found an outlet; as did dramatic dresses done in prints of Renaissance charts, maps and mythological lions and flowers. While Chiuri also played with traditional local hand-made straw hats, converting them into Parisian-style cloche with logo bands. All pulled together in a mood board that featured Maria Grazia’s mother as a young woman looking the spitting image of the couturier.
Also impressing were great new costume jewelry, referencing some Hellenistic knot pendants from the 3rd century BC in Puglia, which was once a colony of Ancient Greece.
“When I visited Puglia as a child, I discovered a town called Bovesia where they still spoke Greek! They call it Griko. They still do. Can you believe it!” marveled Chiuri.
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