Dior Haute Couture Spring Summer 2023 “Exceptional Black Women”. Story by Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE. Photo Courtesy: Dior / Laura Sciacovelli / Adrien Dirand.
Exceptionally boring collection of Christian Dior shown today during Haute Couture fashion week in Paris. Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dark Tinker Bell, creative director of Dior, once again brought ready-to-wear pieces to the runway of Haute Couture. How different are they from the Haute Couture Spring Summer 2022 collection? Not different at all. Once again we saw simple grey and black suits and dresses. How these grey looks linked to the biographies displayed on the walls of exceptional black women, to whom this collection was dedicated? No link… Total guess, these grey suits reminded me of the suits after the Second World War. Definitely the link was missing.
Dior issued some sort of manifesto, praising Josephine Baker. She deserves it all, but I couldn’t find even a glitch or echo of this wonderful person, her style or anything else in this Dior collection. I don’t see the point in producing a series of casual outwear, and then try to stick it to the story written by someone in Dior, who never saw the collection, and basically doesn’t know what he was talking about – just filling up the pages with the text. It’s just a wind, random words attached to the random dresses. Should we issue some sort of ecological statement, like “talk less – think more”, or “economize eyes and years of others”, sort of statement?
An artist Mickalene Thomas created the series of portraits displayed on the walls of these exceptional women in American history.
“The inspiration for the creative process developed through conversation about the importance of Black female role models that broke racial barriers by going against the grain and creating a new platform for many others. In choosing these thirteen phenomenal Black women, across continents, the consideration was to research a diverse and eclectic group of women with the odds set against them. In spaces that attempted to reject or impede their success, they persevered with confidence, elegance, beauty and talent. All of these Noir est beau have achieved and accomplished incredible feats that warrant this notable celebration with a brand like Dior.
Lena Horne once wrote to Ophelia DeVore, “it is true that you knew how beautiful black can be before the concept became commercial. More significantly, you did something about it.” From Donyale Luna and Naomi Sims, some of the first Black supermodels, to Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, this group of women represent many firsts that defied the obstacles put in their way. It was Helen Williams who was one of Ophelia DeVore’s first clients at her modeling agency, breaking down the racial barriers in modeling. It was Hazel Scott who became the first Black woman to host her own TV show. It is because of their determination and sacrifices, breaking barriers in TV, film, fashion and social activism, that I am able to make this work and be the artist I am today.”
The portraits carried out by Mickalene Thomas represent: Joséphine Baker, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Marpessa Dawn, Ophelia DeVore, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Donyale Luna, Josephine Premice, Hazel Scott, Nina Simone, Naomi Sims, Helen Williams.
For Maria Grazia Chiuri, each haute couture defile is an opportunity to explore the complex thought processes connected to a garment constructed for a body. The couture garment is a body-garment. A body-home. A body-manifesto.
This Dior spring-summer 2023 collection is guided by Josephine Baker, the African-American singer and dancer who left the United States in the mid 1920s for the cosmopolitan city of Paris, which was a dream destination for artists, writers and fashion designers. A glamorous icon, she embodies the modernity of those years, the transgression of stereotypes and preiudices, the mixing of cultures and shared experiences that notably animated the vibrant world of cabaret. Having
acquired French citizenship, she was acclaimed by post-war Europe and performed at the Strand Theatre and Carnegie Hall, New York, dressed in French fashion, such as the Dior creations that crowned her charisma and success.
The photographs of Josephine Baker, whose energy is emphasized by their black and white tonality, compose a form of sartorial biography (capturing her as a dancer, entertainer, member of the French Resistance, civil rights activist for the African-Americans, humanist and universal benefactress), the exemplary story of a pioneer, a role-model. The cozy, intimate dressing room that precedes her entrance on stage is evoked by a series of coats, reminiscent of the bathrobe, which conceals and protects.
Made of light velvet, crumpled and dynamic, or quilted, they open onto pieces of light satin underwear that are transformed into protagonists themselves, their powdered hues and black providing a contemporary interpretation of 1950s classics. The clothes glide over the body and caress it. /n silk, in velvet, often with a creased effect, a syncopated rhythm, breathing vitality into the fabric. The embroidery is delicate. Tiny silver studs and sequins occupy the space and absorb the runway lights to reflect them onto the audience. Fringes in shades of silver and gold accompany and magnify the choreography of the movements sketched by the body.
The suits and coats pay tribute to the masculine fabrics dear to Monsieur Dior. The length, always above the ankle, reveals shoes with heels and imposing soles. The show’s staging by African-American artist Mickalene Thomas, celebrates black and mixed-race women, like Josephine Baker, who evolved into powerful figureheads by breaking racial barriers and going against the grain. She unveils the deep meaning of this collection and shakes up the vision of haute couture, the essence of fashion that can become a radical gesture of awareness of its own value and strength.