Upon entry to the Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2023 show at Paris Fashion Week, guests were met with giant portraits cast on the wall. In collaboration with Mickalene Thomas, exceptional public figures such as Nina Simone, Dorothy Dandridge, the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and supermodel Naomi Sims had their portraits reimagined into embroideries along the length of the runway. Epitomizing a new pantheon of women, it was a fitting prelude to what was to come.
For Maria Grazia Chiuri, each haute couture season serves as an opportunity to explore the complex processes connected to a garment constructed for a unique body. Not merely just a body garment, but a body home, a body manifesto. This season the collection was guided by the African-American dancer and singer Joséphine Baker and the photographs that immortalized her sartorial biography.
After moving from the United States to France in the mid 1920s, the African-American star found critical acclaim. She was not just an entertainer but a member of the French Resistance, civil rights activist, humanist and benefactress. Inspired by the pieces she wore — which also included Dior — and the creative’s captivating movement, has informed key design cues for SS/23.
Each haute couture garment glides over the body and caresses it, breathing life into silks and velvets. Embroidering is delicate. Tiny silver studs and sequins dance light around the room. Fringes in shades of silver and gold accompany and magnify the choreography of the body. The suits and coats pay tribute to the masculine fabric dear to Monsieur Dior. The length, always above the ankle, reveals shoes with heel and imposing soles.
Set on the backdrop dreamed up by Thomas, she unveils the deep meaning of the collection, one that reveals how fashion can be a radical gesture, and celebrates Black and mixed-race women, like Baker who evolved into powerful change makers by breaking barriers.