“The book represents the kaleidoscope of voices and visions that the house of Dior embodies today,” says Maria Grazia Chiuri of Her Dior, published by Rizzoli and out now.
This “living project”, as she describes it, brings together 160 images by groundbreaking women image-makers from around the world who have interpreted Chiuri’s work at Dior and represent a “multitude of ideas on femininity.” While, as Chiuri notes, “many voices are expressed” in the volume—among them Nan Goldin, Sarah Moon, Coco Capitán, Katerina Jebb, Zoë Ghertner, Sarah Waiswa, Kristin-Lee Moolman, Jodi Bieber and Bettina Rheims—“there are many more ways of understanding, apprehending and living one’s femininity… the naturalness of this conversation is important, [its] point of view is both intimate and open, free of judgment and paternalism.”
Since she was appointed as Dior’s first woman creative director in 2016, Chiuri has sought to reclaim the narrative of the 74-year-old couture house by creating fashions for women by women. That narrative extends beyond the clothes themselves into how they are communicated, from photography to conceptual design. For her AW19 collection, Chiuri invited Italian artist Bianca Menna—widely known by her male pseudonym Tomaso Binga, which she adopted in the 1970s and subsequently ‘married’—to design the set; Menna’s naked alphabet self-portraits spelling out one of her poems on the walls.
The following season’s haute couture show, meanwhile, took place in the ‘womb’ of an inflatable mother goddess sculpture by Judy Chicago. Both artists have contributed words to Her Dior, as has Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose 2014 book title We Should All Be Feminists, inscribed on one of Chiuri’s T-shirts from her Dior debut, covers Her Dior in a photograph by Brigitte Niedermair.
“I chose women photographers because I wanted a ‘female gaze’ capable of reflecting that of another woman and restoring its intensity,” Chiuri explains of her own inspiration for creating the book. “Photographers who understand that fashion can serve as a tool for challenging stereotypes.” Here, five of them discuss the concept behind their Her Dior, reframing the ‘female gaze’ and keeping creative in times of crisis.
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“My shoot for Her Dior was informed by a photographic project I created called Real Beauty, which focused on rethinking the stereotypical view of what defines beauty. I photographed women in their underwear in my hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa; women from varying social backgrounds and with varying body shapes in a space that was familiar to them. I interviewed each woman to ask her how she personally defined beauty.
“The [Her Dior] shoot [similarly] challenges stereotypes. I chose outfits that wouldn’t be associated with any specific culture through fabric or style. I also wanted to give the viewer hints of a sense of place by incorporating indigenous flowers from South African artworks I’d come across on the walls of many houses in townships; mother and child representations for example and the work of Vladimir Tretchikoff. In African culture, more and more women are wearing their hair naturally when previously many more women wore wigs, so I wanted to celebrate this natural look. I also wanted a fuller figured model.
“Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker  is a good example of a female gaze. Her direction and camerawork in this movie was tight and intimate. However, we can’t all be lumped [together]; we each come with our own perspectives and stories.”
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“[American model] Selena Forrest and I have a long relationship of shooting together and I wanted to discover a new side of her through these pictures; something softer and more subtle, with the deep inky-blue colour from the [AW19] collection. [Over the past year], while the world was slow, I kept active in the garden and by sewing clothes. As the world has slowly opened, I’ve been collaborating with people from afar, mostly through conversations, occasionally working together in person.”
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“For Her Dior, I made life-size portraits of [Japanese painter] Setsuko Klossowska de Rola with a digital scanner over three days. Setsuko is a friend and an inspiration— I often make portraits of the people I’m close to. As the images are made fragment by fragment, the portraits require weeks to assemble. I don’t use references, I prefer to work spontaneously. The subject defines the work that I make.
“There are some interesting historical objects in the archives of Dior that I have documented [over the years] such as a pair of red velvet shoes belonging to the Duchess of Windsor. I made a study of the Dior New Look dress 1947, which is now in the permanent collection at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
“I believe we see with our eyes and it’s the soul that provides the sensibility to that which we see. Male or female, the gaze is an individual expression, and together comprises 7.5 billion gazes. We are all together as humans.”
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“I’ve been working for Dior for almost nine years now and when Maria Grazia arrived, I saw [her take] this very radical step to use the body to create a social statement. I shot the image on the cover of the book in 2016 using a bench from [Chiuri’s first] show and a We Should All Be Feminists T-shirt to create a totem for this historical moment.”
Her Dior: Maria Grazia Chiuri’s New Voice, published by Rizzoli, is out now