At the axis of a fortune teller and a historian sits the fashion designer; vigilantly studying the past, yet boldly dreaming of the future. Such was the position of couturier Christian Dior at the epochal unveiling of the New Look as he sparked a riptide that found itself at the heart of creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s autumn/winter 2022 showing in March.
Paris’s Bassin de L’Octogone at Jardin des Tuileries served as the gateway for a fresh chapter, aptly themed The Next Era. And though Chiuri has been at the helm of Dior since her appointment in 2016, the collection marked a visible deviation from her vision of the past eight years, as affirmed by the maison. It also marked Chiuri’s most daring homage to Dior’s most integral elements: “This collection seeks to express the complexity of fashion that revisits heritage in order to conceive the lines of tomorrow. A journey that shapes the artefacts of a new world, another world, to be made and invented.”
Reflected in aspects both big and small as well as historical and futuristic, the theme was set in stone via the work of Italian feminist artist, Mariella Bettineschi. The venue’s red walls were swathed with female portraits hailing from the 16th to 19th centuries, reimagined by Bettineschi as portrayals of agency and power. As the subjects of Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 masterpiece, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ gazed at onlookers with surreal, duplicated eyes, they also served as a stark juxtaposition to Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 collection. Those accustomed to Chiuri’s penchant for a runway crescendo would have noticed a subtle tempering between house codes and innovations before some of the collection’s bigger reveals.
“This collection seeks to express the complexity of fashion that revisits heritage in order to conceive the lines of tomorrow.”
Off the runway, this is ignited by the line-up’s accessories, namely, its bags. Delicate brocades find themselves on the playful-meets-compact Dior Bobby East-West bag; the ever-popular Dior Book Tote is now fashioned in a genteel beige pink and the classic Lady Dior in smooth, black Cannage leather proves an infallible classic no matter the season or direction. The Dior Essential tote bag, which made its recent debut, also makes a considerable case for Chiuri’s melding of timelines. Made from black satin-finish calfskin and topped with an Archicannage design, it also boasts a metal top handle in gold finish and a roomy make—quintessential to Dior, yet decidedly different.
The collection’s bigger declarations of futurism, however, made themselves apparent through its ready-to-wear offerings, further amplified by the mode and environment in which it was being presented. “This ‘framework’ of the fashion show breathes life into Maria Grazia Chiuri’s concepts; notably (re)constructing a performative relationship between the body and the garment in a technical, aesthetic perspective, in a succession of operations associating forms, savoir faire, materials and futuristic technologies,” shares the maison.
It is not difficult to remember Chiuri’s considered opening look: a black bodysuit complete with neon green wires. Its real selling point, however? Maintaining a constant temperature for its wearer. In collaboration with the 2015-established D-Air Lab, an Italian start-up that specialises in functional clothing, the collection proved an exercise in reimagining Dior’s house codes in what can be considered the maison’s biggest step towards technological innovation. It also stays true to D-Air Lab’s motto: “for your safety, every day, in every environment”.
“This framework of the fashion show breathes life into Chiuri’s concepts; notably (re)constructing a performative relationship between the body and the garment.”
The most striking and unexpected example of this is Chiuri’s reinterpretation of the Bar jacket. While the iconoclastic design holds fort as one of the earliest examples of revolutionary construction, it seems that it is for that very reason that she decided to use this as a reference point. The Bar jacket’s inner padding is now exposed, topped off with corset-like inserts from D-Air Lab. Besides its clear aesthetic appeal, the design was also a hint at the possibilities of climate-sensitive creations for the future. Based on the Antarctica Suit—a garment used by people working in harsh climates—the jacket now features a mesh-resembling grisaille which allows it to follow its wearer’s body.
This know-how was translated to finer details too. Tulle gowns were accessorised with neon-panelled motorcycle gloves. Technical fabric yokes topped off the Roger Vivier for Dior—he served as Dior’s shoe designer from the 1940s to the 1960s—pumps as a testament to the possibilities of embroidery and a similarly patterned Lady Dior bag has followed.
It’s been seven months since Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 showing and a few things have changed. The world seems to have settled into a steadier state post-pandemic and technology continues to be integral to connection. After a worldwide pause, however, the subconscious question remains: what’s next? If The Next Era is anything to go by, for Dior, the possibilities are endless.