I’m still not quite sure what to make of the ‘new’ Dior under Maria Grazia Chiuri. There’s still so much of the whimsy she created at Valentino with her previous design partner Pierpaolo Piccioli on show. But it’s moving in the right direction and the latest collection, Resort 2018, certainly helped with a clearer MGC signature emerging and helping to reshape the label in her image.
The thing is, there’s no denying that this reshaping means Dior is again being taken in a direction that’s quite different from what’s gone before. Forget the endless references to previous collections, the New Look and the famous Bar jacket. Dior’s gone from couture extravagance to Paris-chic-meets-urban to a more girlish prettiness, all in a relatively short space of time. It means Dior is still in a transitional phase and it’s quite hard to sum up just what it stands for these days (apart from luxury, luxury and more luxury).
So, the latest show. What do we make of it? Well, in many ways it was much more assured than the last few collections. For a start it’s not remotely repetitive as Chiuri’s rather dull AW17 collection had been, and it was much more commercial than her her some-good, some-not-so-much SS17 offer (fencing jackets, really?).
It had a pampas-meets-prairie feel, dictated by the venue that had apparently been chosen long before her arrival. In the spirit of a can-do team player, she embraced the chosen nature reserve (Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve in Calabasas, California). How so? She dug out some inspiration from a 1951 Dior collection that referenced the famous French Lascaux cave paintings, added in a Hispanic-Western theme that reminded me of The High Chaparral (look it up if you’re aged 45 or under - a much loved 60s TV Western), and also mixed in some Georgia O’Keeffe inspiration along with a Vicki Noble print collaboration.
If that all sounds like a recipe for one giant fashion mish-mash, it wasn’t. The location, theme, prints and set decoration all worked well together. No surprise really. This giant fashion organisation doesn’t do things by halves and it makes sure its shows are memorable events (although even Dior couldn’t make the sun shine when it decided to show in a very rainy Blenheim Palace this time last year).
Back with the collection shown in arid California, as well as the inspirational back story, there was a lot on show that was ultra commercial. That matters, both for the Dior vendeuses who have to sell the stuff to real people (albeit very rich real people) and the rest of the industry which is hunting around for inspirational ideas to add an edge to its own offer.
The decorative (but not remotely girly) bag straps ticked the instant-commercial-appeal box, as did the chunky cardigans-as-outerwear, the decorative denims, the thin-belt-with-everything jackets, knits, coats and dresses, the sort-of-serapes, the parson’s hats, the ballerina length evening dresses, the half-decorative biker jackets, the plain, printed or embellished tailored jackets, and much more.
It’s a shame the models couldn’t bring themselves to smile. Just once would have been nice for a collection that was undeniably joyful and energetic and felt like Chiri was really starting to stamp her signature onto the label.
Let’s hope she hangs around long enough to continue the transformation. This was a big collection considering it was Resort. Eighty four exits. Do that often enough, along with all the perfume campaigns, the couture and all the other baggage that goes along with a multimillion euro contract to head up Dior, and you could be on target for another of those now-familiar Dior burnouts that did for John Galliano so spectacularly and meant Raf Simons didn’t hang around for too long.
But Chiuri looks like a steady pair of shoulders to carry that weight. She’s definitely a long-termer. Three decades divided between Fendi and Valentino prove that. And her deft touch with accessories adds further weight to her ability to succeed long term at the label. She was part of the team that created the Fendi Baguette bag and so helped kick off the current luxury accessories craze (not sure whether we should thank or condemn her for that though). And she added to that with the undeniable success of the Valentino Rockstud series. Both are still going strong. And so is Maria Grazia Chirui. She just needs a bit of time to make it really work at Dior.