Théâtre de la Mode. Dior AW20 Couture

Yesterday was the first day of the autumn-winter 2020 haute couture “week”, digitally streamed from Paris due to confinement reasons. To be honest, I had a huge dilemma with it. After seeing all the look-books and pretentious, confusing videos, I felt like everybody would be completely fine with skipping this season entirely – designers the most. Schiaparelli released a look-book featuring Daniel Roseberry’s sketches, just to have a brief moment going on on Instagram. Illustrations are beautiful and all, but the execution of this concept felt completely empty. Olivier Theyskens couldn’t imagine a worse timing with his Azzaro debut – the blurry music video the label released tells nothing about his vision for the brand, and it would be simply best if they postponed it. But the fashion industry seems to still not know that word: “postpone”. Everything must be immediate, even if there’s nothing to show.

Maria Grazia Chiuri‘s Dior collection, clothes-wise, was surprisingly good. And they really, really could just leave it the way it is, a proper look-book photos of mannequins wearing couture and a well-written press release. Unfortunately, the brand decided to start with a visual, where everything went wrong. I’m talking about the film directed by Matteo Gerrone, which I found cheesy in production and, well, so, so ignorant towards current events going on in the world. As if Black Lives Matters never happened, an all white cast without a single model of colour held it all back to the maximum. And having models of colour in a casting is the easiest way for a brand to confront the term “diversity” – something Chiuri used to say was so important to her, with all her “feminist” themes… – and believe it or not, Dior failed with it. Which is sad and frustrating. Ok… lets go back to the collection. The film showed mermaids, nymphs, a live Venus statue and a travelling trunk of dresses (a nod to Théâtre de la Mode, the tour of miniature gowns on dolls in 1945-46 to revive the French fashion industry post-war) exploding into the woods in an Ancient dreamscape, and all that lead us to a collection filled with references of Greek mythology, fairytales and pre-Raphaelite times. Maria Grazia Chiuri name-checked the likes of Lee Miller, Dora Maar, Leonor Fini and Jacqueline Lamba – 20th-century women who are often remembered by history for their beauty or for their famous lovers and husbands, but in fact did important work of their own as artists. With a surrealist twist, that was a line-up of delightful diaphanous gowns and voluminous New Look-inspired coats, all kept in neutral colours. The bondage details in some of the dresses made me think of Man Ray and Lee Miller’s work, were kinky merged into sensual. At some points it all looked overly historical, even theatrical. Not sure if it’s relevant couture, like the one Virginie Viard does at Chanel. But if any sort of MET Gala is coming up in 2020, those dresses will perfectly match the About Time: Fashion and Duration theme.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Single-Minded. Dior AW17 Couture

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Looking at Maria Grazia Chiuri‘s time-line at Dior, which started about a year ago, one thing’s sure – she doesn’t care about the critics and suggestions of others. She likes going one clear, single-minded direction per season, making her overall work feel like a set of trends, rather than a consistent story told by an experienced designer. Let’s go navy this season, let’s do ‘feminism’ this time, oh, maybe let’s do a Western theme!

So, what’s on the table this couture season? Fifty shades of grey, literally (expect three, four looks kept in multi-coloured patchwork). Heavy masculine coats, fedora hats, dusty ball-gowns for cosmopolitan ladies of early 20th century – you would expect something more radiant for a brand’s 70th anniversary. “Honestly, it’s completely different to see the real archive and the image that some people have about Christian Dior. There’s so much daywear.” Thought it’s a haute couture show, where you don’t give a damn about something like ‘daywear’ and instead go for imagination. Talking of Dior, the man – the  bar jacket is here. With this exhausted piece, Chiuri checks the box every season, saying that she finds a connection with the brand’s founder. But Maria Grazia should focus on making Dior feel contemporary, even for a billionaire’s wifes who will buy it later in the atelier. Or, I guess, this sells well, if she’s still at the maison

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki (backdrop: Gordon Parks’ photo).

Los Angeles. Dior Resort’18

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Firstly, that was Maria Grazia Chiuri‘s best collection at Dior up-to-date. And it was far, far away from Paris. Comparing to her previous outing – an all-blue collection, which rather looked like Armani’s millionth set of blazers than a second line-up from a debuting creative director – resort 2018 was quite outstanding. With preciously intricate gowns (which will surely find a place among L.A.’ wealthiest women), an incredible tent constructed in the middle of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon in Calabasas and a strong, Georgia O’Keeffe moment (the late “Mother of American modernism” was known for wearing a black hat and matching over-sized coat), there’s a lot to mention, while discussing this collection. After the show, Maria Grazia said that she has a life-long love affair with Clarissa Pinkola Estés book called Women Who Run with the Wolves – that set the free-spirited mood behind the silhouettes. Moreover, the designer decided to use the famous Lascaux cave paintings as the main print for rich, jacquard fabrics (Monsieur Dior used them too, back in 1951). Then, we also had the tribal symbols covering silk sheaths and ball skirts, underscoring Chiuri’s love for mystical themes.

But, am I the only one, who thinks that there’s too much going on in here? It’s beautiful, no doubt. However, Maria Grazia’s vision for this season has no bigger connection with the maison, as for me. Expect, a few old-school Dior logos on the bags and a suede bar jacket with fringes (AND this looked really upsetting). It seems that the designer has no sense of consistency, as she jumps from one topic to another – and that’s clearly visible once you re-see her previous collections, spanning from enchanted forest nymphs to faux-feminists in pricey t-shirts. And the saddest thing is that Dior’s identity becomes blurrier with every season. Resort 2018 rather looks like a well-funded Ralph Lauren collection or Chanel’s memorable Paris-Texas capsule (déjà vu, anyone?).

One thing’s sure – Chiuri knows how to design a dress and make Rihanna see her show. But does she know how to lead a heritage brand with sense? I think we’re getting to the point, where the answer is ‘no’.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

A Matter of Feminism. Dior SS17

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Today in Poland, thousands of brave women and great men walked down the streets wearing black. They were protesting in solidarity against an anti-abortion law, which is meant to be introduced by the Polish government – in other words, instead of spreading sexual awareness and wider access to contraception, politicians want to utterly limit women’s rights to their bodies in my country. And all of that happens at the same time when Paris Fashion Week is at its full spin. Rarely does a fashion week glamorama relate to reality, and it’s nearly a non-sense to compare those two, completely different universes. But still, Dior‘s spring-summer 2017 burns in my head intensely, noting today’s events.

A few months ago, Maria-Grazia Chiuri, a former designer of Valentino (she worked with Pierpaolo Piccioli, who’s now the head of the brand), was announced as the new creative director of this historic French maison. Yes, you’ve read that correctly: a woman is taking Dior under her wings. Chiuri definitely made history with her appointment, and her step forward highlighted that it’s an ultimate end of a women-less era in fashion… which is, ironically, mostly created for women. Trust me, I was extremely excited about her debut collection. But when I saw the entire show, I felt disgusted. A dummy knew that Maria-Grazia would hit the topic of her own phenomenal appearance in this brand.

In result, she delivered t-shirts with slogans like “we should all be feminists“. How. Banal.

From a position of a female fashion designer, who did Valentino, and now does Dior, being a “feminist” should give an example to millions of people – really, the platform of influence is huge. But in the end, it’s about a t-shirt, which will surely cost approximately 200 euros (or more?). Looking down, we’ve got a meticulously embroidered tulle dress, which will, hah, cost a car. I love fashion, and this industry, but I’m frustrated with the way such important topics as “feminism” is easily printed and tagged around. It’s just about being desperately relevant. It’s like the spring-summer 2015 collection by Chanel, where Karl Largerfeld sent out a line of XS-sized models in couture tweeds to protest in a faux demonstration. In my very personal opinion, coining the term “feminism” can’t be anyhow compared to egalitarian (Valentino and Chanel are far from affordable), or can’t be approached lightly, without a second thought. And while I’m still in the mood of protests and outrage, seeing a fashion collection which is “trying” to be feminist hurts.

Ok, let me chill. Do you want to see real feminism in fashion? Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons. She is the founder of her entire company, and she continues to thrive as an independent owner of it. Phoebe Philo is the embodiment of feminism at Céline, where she creates wearable, everyday clothes for every kind of women. It’s pricey, but a Philo piece is an investment for life. While at Valentino, we’ve got ballerina dresses, tons of embellishments and Dior-logo heels – barely classics. Not that Maria-Grazia Chiuri is a bad designer, or anything like that. I just hope that her tenure at Dior won’t end with a pack of short-sighted slogans.

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Couture – Giles, Maison Margiela, Valentino AW16

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Giles – If you think of Giles Deacon and his fashion, first thing on your mind is his “fire burnt” gown or Kristen McMenamy in a white dress with extremely big shoulders – in other words, his most fantastic and surreal creations, which are on haute couture level. This season, forget about Giles’ ready-to-wear, as the designer decided not to show during the last London Fashion Week. Instead, he went to Paris for couture week to prove that he’s incredibly good in his love for “big, special pieces for the show“. Because, why not? Life’s too short to do something that bores us.

For his first couture collection, Deacon went eclectic, allowing his imagination take over the control. Voluminous ball dress in hand-painted, palm leaves print; purple mini-dress covered with three-dimensional petals; yellow, jacquard cape-like gown with embellishments. Should I list more? Oh, yes – the stand-out piece, so a regal velvet neckpiece in an Elizabethan style, which is of course detachable. As the queen wearing Giles wishes. There’s also the imperial ‘Faberge’ print gown, all covered in a variety of egg illustrations. Yum. That’s a wardrobe for a modern-day monarch – it’s not over-the-top kitsch, but adequately fancy. It’s visible that Deacon loves seeing his biggest love – couture – become a reality!

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Maison Margiela – I’m again on fence with John Galliano. To me, everything he does at Maison Margiela is haphazard, without any order. It’s not ecleticism. It’s a play with random textiles and textures. But this doesn’t mean that John’s chaos doesn’t have its own appeal – it does, intimately. Wherever you look, autumn-winter 2016 collection focuses on the tiniest detail. The bright yellow, ‘artisanal’ cocoon coat was worn with an embroidered drape at the back, while the dramatic veil on models’ head reminded me of a perfect day-with-the-bees option. There was an adventurous, bared-shoulder dress; a plastic construction layered on a red mini-dress; a show-stopping muslin gown with a red lace boy embroidered on. The attitude of the collection was quite revolutionary, and as the show-notes suggested, French revolution period is the main reference. Anna Cleveland, who wore a Napoleon-esque hat, looked like she was ready for the fight. Still, I doubt wellies and a tweed skirt with feather applications are best choice for a “military” gear.

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Valentino – You surely know that this Valentino show is the last one designed by the duo of Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri. At least, only one half of this pair stays; the latter, Maria Grazia, leaves for Dior. Which is quite unexpected, noting all these great collections (even if there were some ups and downs) and even greater couture presentations they did together. But on the contrary, Dior is really in a need for a designer with a strong vision after Raf Simons’ depature. Chiuri’s feminine point of view will surely match the ‘new look’, while her dresses are going to boost the sales (a new designer is always a gust of fresh air for a brand with heritage). Moreover, with her big step forward, she’s making history – she will become the first female creative director of Christian Dior’s maison.

Time will show what’s coming for Maria – for now, never mind,  let’s take a look at Valentino’s latest outing. An old chapter should be ended with a bit of drama, and this Elizabethan wardrobe of puffed sleeves and clerical robes matches the slightly melancholic mood. The collection was presented on the occasion the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, so no wonder why there was a lot of Renaissance Italy feel in these theatrical clothes, origining from Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice. Richly embroidered and oozing with romance (as hot red as the closing, aristocratic gowns), the designer duo proved once again that they are (or rather were) the masters of elegance. However, ignoring the fact it’s the last collection designed with help of Maria Grazia, I guess it would be simply considered as another beautiful, enchanting, and so on… Valentino couture. I confess – I hoped for something more.

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