Androgynous clothing and black-and-white graphic tees might not sound like high fashion, but Dior sent these looks to Paris Fashion Week this year. Gone were the show-stopping dresses with fairytale princess silhouettes; tulle and careful embellishments were still prominent, but they were offset by decidedly "unfeminine" elements. Models wore sneakers instead of heels and stomped down the stage in place of the typical catwalk strut.
Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri inspired this radical shift in presentation. Just as her designs are intended to convey (one graphic tee quite literally read, “We Should All Be Feminists”), Chiuri's career has been one large feminist statement, culminating in her role as the first female creative director in Dior’s 70 year history.
In an industry marketed predominantly towards women, it may seem strange that Dior has never had a female creative director. However, women are heavily underrepresented when it comes to such executive-level jobs—a trend that inevitably places more power in men's hands when it comes to women's beauty standards. For the glass ceiling to exist in the fashion world is surprising to say the least, but Chiuri’s designs are shattering this backward standard in a powerful way.
Despite her transformative industry takeover, Chiuri's collection received some harsh criticism. Chiuri was expected to produce work similar to what she had done with Valentino, but that was simply not the case. Those anticipating classic, graceful, and fanciful designs moving down the runway were disappointed to see Chiuri's muted color palette and pointedly inelegant embroidery.
In cutting-edge fashion there is always an element of shock, and Chiuri’s designs certainly did not lack originality. Since its founding, Dior has striven to embody delicate femininity. Chiuri's clothing, however, was reminiscent of fencer’s uniforms, and decidedly unlike previous designs, they called into question the many gender stereotypes that surround high fashion. Despite disappointment in the designs themselves, no one could miss the obvious message behind Chirui's line: It is time to break the pattern of men defining femininity in the fashion industry.
So just what does Dior stand to gain from Chiuri's takeover? At the very least, her consciously inelegant fashions are garnering brand attention, which is perhaps Dior’s primary goal. Any publicity is good publicity in the fashion world, and the shift in brand image is revitalizing. A graphic tee featuring the phrase “DIO(R)EVOLUTION” confirms that Chiuri is aware of the waves her debut has made in the fashion industry.
Chiuri’s appointment to creative director might be a bolder move than anything she actually put on the runway, but her line's intent did not go unnoticed, and no one in the fashion industry can deny its validity.