Dior’s couture show just made an incredibly powerful feminist statement

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Billie Bhatia
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As we kick off Haute Couture Fashion Week, Dior leads the way with a thought-provoking show and a killer collection to boot. 

Today marks the beginning of Paris Haute-Couture Fashion Week. To me and you that means the start of the big, frothy, incredible dresses that are about to hit your Instagram feed. For industry insiders, couture is the very best in innovation and design a house has to offer, where looks are created from the absolute finest materials money can buy and are constructed by the best ateliers in the world. 

What you see on the catwalk is an example of the dress you will own, but if you choose to buy a couture dress then it will be made exactly to measure… by hand. Which is precisely why couture looks demand such high price points, with some dresses even reaching the hundreds of thousands.

Dior was the big show of the day, and having previously created indoor floral gardens, a circus (complete with performers) and a what can only be described as a modern safari – the animals were carved from wood and put together like a puzzle – there was big expectations. What Maria Grazia Chiuri created this season was more provocative than ever before, and she didn’t even need the knockout setting to pack this kind of punch. 

Walking into the dome-shaped show space at Musée Rodin, guests were greeted by a series of embroidered banners that adorned the show venue designed by American feminist artist, Judy Chicago. The largest banner placed at the entrance of the catwalk was, “What if women ruled the world?” With a series of spin-off questions adorning the rest of the banners in the space: “Would god be female?” “Would old women be revered?” “Would both men and women be equal?” “Would there be violence?” “Would there be equal parenting?”

The thought-provoking series of questions hand-embroidered onto these banners were created at Chanakya School. It is an embroidery school in India that is supported by Dior, with the aim of empowering female students in a country where embroidery savoir-faire is internationally recognised, but is largely a man’s domain. The school explains, “Traditionally in India, craft is only taught from father to son. Women have not had a chance for opportunity to create an independent future through skill. Maria Grazia was the one who suggested that we have this school for women, because it was time for women to contribute to craftsmanship.” 

The women who created this commission from Maria Grazia Chiuri and Judy Chicago come from varying backgrounds, with some women residing in India’s poorest slums and otherwise discouraged from learning skills by patriarchal ideals. Some of these women were asked the very question they had spent time embroidering, “What if women ruled the world?”

“If women ruled the world, the world would be a more caring, compassionate place for everyone,” said one student, while another reasoned, “With their families women are loving and caring, so they would probably be loving and caring towards the world.” 

With the stage set, it was time for Maria Grazia Chiuri to present her collection. Stylist editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski noted, “There was an obvious inspiration from antiquity for a lot of the collection. Dress after dress showed a modern reinvention of the peplos – a traditional Ancient Greek garment that was typical attire for women. Peppered between the swathes of twisted and tied fabrics was clean-cut suiting that gave an overall feel of immense strength and power. This was further supported by the fact every model finished their look (regardless of gown or tailoring) with a pair of knotted Greek-style flat sandals – rejoice!” 

Dior Couture brings Ancient Greek styles into the modern age.
A series of smart tailoring peppered the collection of beautiful dresses.
Swathes of chiffon lined the Dior catwalk.
The strong silhouettes brought a real sense of power to the collection.
A modern day Dior goddess.

In Ancient Greek culture the female gods were incredibly powerful figures, with many acting as the counterpart, or rather equal, to the male gods. And that is exactly what Maria Grazia Chiuri has drawn upon with this collection. Modern patriarchy may have made us lose sight of a woman’s power, but Dior is more than willing to help us remember – and with a killer outfit to boot. 

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Images: Getty / Instagram