Dior’s SS23 Women’s Runway Show Is All About Women, By Women

Dior’s Spring Summer 2023 women’s collection was unveiled today from the City of Lights. If you know Maria Grazia Chiuri then you know she’s a champion of women. The collection, the runway set- more on this in a moment- and the inspiration were all by women, on the day that Chiuri’s native Italy elected its first woman Prime Minister.

Sitting front row were actresses Rosamund Pike, Alexandra Daddario, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jisoo, as well as British Vogue editor Edward Enniful.

Chiuri went into House archives, something she’s known for doing to create collections. The image of a map of Paris, particularly Avenue Montaigne that was on the back of a 1950s Dior scarf, was her guide. “Thus, she traces her own path, between autobiography and reflection,” shares the Maison in notes. As she’s guided by this map, Chiuri is drawn to the Tuileries Garden, where Dior ready-to-wear women’s shows normally take place. And there she found Catherine de Medici, an Italian woman who impacted the French court as queen.

“de Medici arrived at the French court in 1533, and this noblewoman remains a figure emblematic of the relationship between women and power, and fascinates Chiuri because of her political intelligence, but also the innovations she launched, such as heels, the corset, and Burano lace, introduced to the royal manufactures,” continues the Maison.

The fashion for women during the Baroque period was of flamboyant patterns and dark colors, as natural and curvy feminine silhouettes were embraced. Women wore virago sleeves, lace collars for decoration, and long gowns with low necklines. Flowing lines and gold filigree were drawn upon as Chiuri created long and short dresses with this detailing. She also stayed in the period color palette and most of the looks were black, white, off white, golds and floral patterned. Some outerwear jackets and longer spring-like coats, or raffia coats, an ancestral tradition for de Medici include floral and bird motifs. There are some pants pieces in the collection but mostly skirts and dresses- and some trench coat looks.

The corset is a major player in this period for women, and so, Chiuri updates it, giving it a “quasi-geometric shape” giving shape to the bust. “The guêpière, sometimes hidden, sometimes visible, outlines a silhouette reminiscent of the wide skirts worn at the court of Catherine de Medici,” says Dior.

Chiuri understands the power women possess, one of these powers being awareness, that fashion’s power is also a power women have that is an attraction to the outside world, which goes beyond perception, knowledge and experiences.

A set structure made totally from cardboard

That set tho. As guests flooded into the show space, which was set in a circular shape, there in the center of the room was a grotto-esque sculpted structure that took about six months to create. There’s something Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco about it. Created by artist Eva Jospin, Chiuri has worked with her before to create runway sets, like the Dior AW21-22 Haute Couture show. “Maria Grazia saw my exhibition that I did in Paris, which was really like forest, grotto and architecture altogether. I showed her a book on grotto gardens that she loved. She’s Italian and she has a taste for these things, and it’s a taste we have in common. So, she asked me if I imagined a sculpture for the show, inspired by all the things we love together. And I said yes, it’s amazing to do all this and so, I’m very glad,” says Jospin. As far back as February, Jospin knew she was going to do the show, which gave her almost a half a year to create.

The Buttes Chaumont grotto in Paris, the Villa Borromeo Visconti Litta in Lombardy, and the frescoes of the Palazzina Cinese in Palermo were her starting points. Jospin is no stranger to grottos. She’s actually studied them greatly and spent extensive time at grottos around the world.

In case you’re wondering, “grottos are architecture carved into rock, changing over time, characterized by the progression of nature, the metamorphosis of encrusted shells,” notes the Maison.

So why the fascination with cardboard? “I started using this material about 15 years ago, and maybe when I started with it, it was the time to change my scale of work and turn to large instillations. But I was looking for a material that’s very easy like a pencil but for the sculpture. I really like how cardboard can be found anywhere, and I like the circle of how it starts with the forest and returns to the forest because the first works I did was of big forests using cardboard,” explains Jospin.

And, how does the sculpted runway structure fit in with the collection? “The new collection has a strong inspiration with the Baroque period too. Maria Grazia is very sensitive to what is happening the world right now. The last show started with the war in Ukraine, and we have a lot of uncertainty just after Covid, in Europe there is a lot of uncertainty, and there is climate change so there are a lot of uncertainties and I think she wanted to find a space in herself that is her own imaginary world. Because when the world does not completely fit you, you can find the resources inside yourself and make it something crazy, bigger, and let the imagination be wild. This is the idea of the collection,” the artist continues.

Also, a part of the show was Dutch choreographers and dancers Imre and Marne van Opstal dancing. The van Opstal’s are a brother sister duo that focus on the human condition, its limits and its possibilities. At the end of the show, during her finale walk, Chiuri walked out with the dancers whose moves captivated the audience.

This Dior women’s runway show is really about women, about Paris streets, about Catherine de Medici and her impact on Paris, and women in general expressing themselves through the cultural complexity of this era.

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