Dior’s Calabasas Show Was Surreal and Surprising

When Maria Grazia Chiuri left Valentino and her partner (with whom she had resurrected the fashion house) to assume the position of creative director at Christian Dior, the move was bound to be controversial. Here was a woman, powerful by all accounts but mostly seen as such in the context of a duo, taking over a house that has never been run by a woman and doing it on her own.

If you ask me, she was set up to disappoint. The bar had been set so high. People expected perfection, brilliance, a knock out of the park so profound, her clothes might actually fix the broken fashion system. There was also skepticism. Was she equipped to run a house of this magnitude solo?

Last night, she showed a comprehensive collection for the resort 2018 season (what were once considered smaller, in-between collections are becoming increasingly more important in the scheme of retail) at the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve in Calabasas, 45 minutes outside of Santa Monica. It took about two hours to get there during rush hour.

When I arrived, flurries of cowboy boots, cropped fur jackets and sheer mid-length dresses and skirts — like those from her previous two collections — were waiting on an expanse of dusty, desert land to be escorted by golf cart to the show venue. I’ve never been to Burning Man, but imagine this is what it looks like.

At the show venue, two hot-air balloons that read “Christian Dior Sauvage” were stationed among a fog of flying dust. A series of earth-colored couches, located among deliberately placed tumbleweeds, provided intimate seating for groups of show attendants. The setting was surreal; the clothes were surprising.

Her first two collections seemed like a soft launch, a quiet whisper to the house’s history and heritage. And if that is true, if they were soft, this was seemingly the grand reveal — a big-ass opening party that rescinded whatever skepticism you may have felt to make room for, finally, the knock-out collection.

And it was a knock out. But I don’t know what made it so great: Was it how exacting her vision and the subsequent execution was? Here we were, watching various iterations of Georgia O’Keeffe wander through a valley.

The tieback to Dior was faint, but there in various garments printed with renderings of the Lascaux cave in France (a historic source of inspiration for the house).

For what it’s worth, I’d wear all the clothes. They were the right amount of serious and folky, never becoming parodies of themselves in spite of the fringed hemlines.

It feels as if each of the three collections she has so far designed for Dior are like novellas unto themselves, threaded together by a much more esoteric theme that builds as we progress, allowing them to make sense in the scheme of each other. Sure, you can draw the sheer, ankle-length skirts to each other, but ultimately, the leather berets and denim jumpsuits of Fall ’17 have very little to do with the long-sleeve, tulle, turtleneck dresses of Resort. That’s okay, because her steadfast inspiration, the unflinching string holding her clothes together, is a very true celebration of the woman in all her permutations.

The men who have designed at the helm of Dior have had a very clear picture of the particular Dior woman. But is there just one woman suited for these clothes? Could just one woman maintain such a binary definition of her own identity?

For as many eye rolls as the first collection of T-shirts, swiped from a stunning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie text (“We Should All Be Feminists”) invited, maybe she had to be that literal. To hit us over the head with her purpose, because now it seems singular: spread femininity like wildfire, whatever it takes.

Feature photo by Rich Fury via Getty Images; slideshow photos via Vogue Runway.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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