What is haute couture for? This is the question that the artistic director of Dior, the Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, asked herself in these times of pandemic, war and threat of global recession.
The answer, she felt, was “to reimagine a better future.” And to create a “bridge” between the know-how of different cultures to collectively bring something significant.
And so, the centerpiece of Dior’s couture show on Monday was not the exquisite pleated chiffon dresses or the intricately embroidered cream woolen coats, but rather the backdrop – the floor-to-ceiling works of art. that lined the Rodin Museum in Paris, a series of joyful and innocent interpretations of the tree of life laden with flowers, fruits and birds.
These works, representing “woman, the continuation of life and a bright future”, according to the historic French fashion house, were made by Kyiv-based artist Olesia Trofymenko. Chiuri had discovered her this spring during an exhibition at the MAXXI, the national museum of 21st century art, in Rome, in a program dedicated to contemporary Ukrainian artists. For this couture collection, the first since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Chiuri gave Trofymenko carte blanche, and the result – these large-scale wall pieces – formed the starting point for her runway.
“I really like the symbolism of the tree of life,” she said backstage before the show, wearing her famous “We should all be feminists” t-shirt with a black pantsuit. “It means this idea of the circle of life.”
The tree of life theme was carried over into the collection with cream, taupe, red and black full-skirted maxi dresses, which were hand-embroidered with nature motifs inspired by the works of Trofymenko.
The fact that the tree of life is a symbol present in many cultures also appealed to Chiuri – with it, his ambition was to create a universal decorative language, a new universal folklore carrying peace and hope, if you will. To enhance this concept, Chiuri also designed other folk craft details in the garments – delicately smocked bust panels, perfectly patchworked coats, braided seams and hand-woven fabrics which gave an organic texture and irregular.
By building this “bridge” to other cultures, Chiuri believes that Dior’s atelier can be located “all over the world” – thus not only the fine details were executed by Dior’s Paris atelier small dishesbut much of the embroidery – both on the artwork and on the dresses – was done by Indian artisans from the Chanakya School of Craft and Chanakya workshops in Mumbai.
“It’s important to have this dialogue and to share these skills,” she said, adding that sewing is well placed to build this bridge between different cultures. “When you work by hand, you are close to humanity.”
Whether Chiuri’s creations will bring peace and prosperity to the world is up for debate, but judging by the number of selfies taken by viewers of the show against the backdrop of Trofymenko’s art, it could perhaps inspiring a sense of welcome lightness and optimism for a difficult time.
Dior has enjoyed impressive growth this year, proving immune to the effects of global news, posting first-quarter sales of 18 billion euros, up 29% from the same period in 2021. Analysts estimate Dior tripled sales to $7.2 billion under new CEO Pietro Beccari.