Maria Grazia Chiuri surely has the toughest gig in the fashion industry right now. For the past few months, she has been learning the ropes of the biggest fashion house in Paris without even speaking the language and getting acquainted with decades of archives including Christian Dior’s collections, of course, but also those of Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Raf Simons and even Hedi Slimane. Just like she did with her first ready-to-wear collection, the Italian-born designer included trademark elements from her predecessors in her first haute couture effort for the maison.
Starting with the set - a green garden filled with moss and mirrors inside the Musée Rodin -, a way of keeping continuity with Raf Simons’s vision. Then the first look, as expected, kept continuity with Dior’s particular brand of storytelling. It was a hooded Bar jacket worn with a long pleated skirt, followed by seven more variations on the same piece before the first dress made its appearance. It’s easy to see why Chiuri was chosen for the job. She is both experienced and apt at creating the kind of fairytale femininity the public has come to associate with Dior, as proven by the long gowns, sometimes decorated with tarot motifs (a wink to Monsieur Dior’s well-known superstitious nature), the pleated silk skirts, the transparent chiffon, the flower embroideries, the lace and the feathered headpieces made by Stephen Jones. One dress in particular paid homage to the French designer: it was a reinterpretation of the sumptuous petal dress from 1949. It was luxurious, delicate, feminine and red carpet-worthy, yes. Modern? Not really.
And ultimately, that’s the problem with Chiuri’s work for the brand so far. While it seems to follow a CEO’s briefings to the letter, there is nothing new, unexpected or provocative to it. That which might today bring a sigh of relief to the lips of shareholders used to clash with opinionated designers such as Raf Simons or John Galliano. But it also puts the brand in danger of becoming a dinosaur disengaged from the present of fashion and obsessed by its own past.