Maria Grazia Chiuri has, during her six years at the helm of Christian Dior, developed a reputation as a designer with meticulous attention to detail. Her collections, from ready-to-wear to haute couture, resort to pre-fall, are always deeply embedded with a narrative arc that often pulls together art, feminism, and the unique craftsmanship of overlooked corners of the globe. For Dior’s Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-23 collection, she hit all those points, and then some. Chiuri took as her starting point the work of Ukrainian artist Olesia Trofymenko, whose work she recently encountered at MAXXI, the contemporary art museum in Rome. Trofymenko’s work deals predominantly with the ‘tree of life’ motif, and Chiuri saw it as the perfect starting point for a haute couture collection that endeavoured to “contemplate fashion through the filter of art.”
Trofymenko created the large multicoloured artworks that appeared in the showspace erected by Dior in the garden outside the Musée Rodin in Paris this afternoon. Those artworks—which showed the branches, trunks, and roots of the tree of life—appeared throughout the collection, embroidered by the Dior ateliers onto sumptuous silk coats and soft cotton day dresses. Elsewhere in the collection there was an abundance of quintessential Dior savoir-fare, from the patchworks of delicate lace and guipure braids that adorned languid gowns, through to 3-D beaded embroidery in the shape of flowers on wool crepe and cashmere evening wear. Most of that detail was clearly visible from the star-studded front row, which included Naomi Watts, Elle Macpherson, and Zoe Saldana and even—thanks to the marvels of technology—from the much populated live stream. But some were so discrete it could only be noticed by the wearer. “It’s invisible except to the client,” Chiuri explained.
The influence of Trofymenko’s work extended to the silhouettes, which—ranging from the puff-sleeved floor-skimming day dresses that opened the show, through the apron silhouettes and dirndl skirts that appeared later on—had a decidedly folkloric, decidedly Ukrainian feel. There was even the appearance of chic, couture-ified religious garb in the shape of a cinched black gown with a bib (white lace, naturally) that evoked a sharply dressed nun. The collection offered an unequivocal—if unspoken—nod of support to the war-ravaged country, and proved a testament to Chiuri’s creative directorship, which has hinged on an ongoing dialogue with the political reality of the contemporary world. The collection’s 68 looks appeared in a muted colour palette of beiges, creams, navys, and ivories, a decision that felt fitting for haute couture. “Couture is really about culture, less spectacular, less show-off,” Chiuri told WWD after the show.
Still, it was hard to watch the increasingly complex array of outerwear, tailoring and gowns and not have the word “spectacular” spring to mind.