Maria Grazia Chiuri's Spring 2018 Couture collection took inspiration from surrealist artist Leonor Fini, who was exhibited by Christian Dior in the gallery he was involved with before becoming a Couturier. This collection however, didn't feel true the nature of couture at all. Many of the pieces felt distinctively ready to wear in their primitive silhouettes, limited colour palette, and uninspiring construction. Couture makes room for almost anything but this collection felt far too commercial to fit in to the dreamy opulent wonderland of the couture space.
One of the most shocking aspects of this show was the quality of construction. I'm not claiming to be an expert on the work of couture ateliers. However, I feel confident in saying that the use of the legally protected term Haute Couture sets a precedent of unmatched quality and construction that is expected when extreme amounts of money are put into 100% hand crafted pieces made by the most talented ateliers in the world. Disappointingly however, there were many pieces in the show that showed wonky seems, uneven cuts, and puckering fabric.
One thing I did appreciate about the collection was the extensive research that went into the artist who inspired the collection. Chiuri says she was inspired by how Fini used extravagant clothing to produce a woman's identity. “She used her image to be regal and powerful. Surrealism speaks about dreams and the unconscious, and often about women’s bodies. It’s very close to fashion.” Though I stand by the artistic merit of using that aspect of surrealism as inspiration for a collection, I don't feel it was done effectively. Surrealism is meant to release the creative spirit of the unconscious mind, and simply printing surrealist motifs onto what felt like uninspired ready-to-wear did not do the movement justice in my opinion.
On a brighter note, the eyewear designed by Stephen Jones was certainly a step in the right direction amongst the many faults I saw with Chiuri. She has clearly established that her time at Dior will heavily express feminist imagery in light of her being the first female creative director of the house. Though I haven't been a fan of her graphic t-shirts in the past, this was an interesting turn if the interpretation I had was at all correct. My immediate thoughts when seeing the pieces was that they were referencing Islamic modest-wear such as the niqab. France is the central hub of the conversation surrounding the presence of religious symbols and the complicated debate about freedom of religion and freedom of expression vs secular society and the exploitation of women. Given that the underpinnings of surrealism lie in freedom, it all feels like a fitting motif in this collection and this new period for the house. Overall, despite the greatest of intentions and inspirations, this was a disappointingly one dimensional season for the house of Christian Dior.