Surrealist Dior presents a new Theatre de la Mode
Maria Grazia Chiuri unveiled her latest haute couture collection for Christian Dior on Monday afternoon in a remarkably beautiful film that seems destined to become an instant classic work of surrealist cinema.
Shot amid ancient ruins around Rome, and directed by Matteo Garrone, the film starred a series of nymphs, mermaids, fauns and mythological creatures in an elegiac garden, and referenced the "Théâtre de la Mode", when French designers developed miniature mannequins at the end of WW2 and sent them on a tour of Europe and the USA to revive the counrty's fashion industry.
In Garrone’s film, the reverie of the beautiful sylvan creatures is quietly interrupted by two hotel porters carrying a huge trunk done in the design of Dior’s Paris flagship on avenue Montaigne. Immediately intrigued, a half-dozen beauties swimming semi-clad underneath an ancient Roman bridge quit their play to discover within the trunk a series of miniature couture creations.
The collection is one of 33 on the official schedule of this July’s Haute Couture week in Paris. However, even just a half-day into this unique couture season – an entirely digital Fashion Week of three days – this Dior oeuvre looks like it is the highlight.
The actual opening image was of the seamstresses – or petit mains – in Dior’s famed atelier back in Paris working on the collection; teasing out the hem of a satin dress with a tiny needle, or gently posing a plissé column over an 18-inch high doll.
Entitled Le Mythe Dior, the 10-minute film recounts how these magical beauties all fall in love with the clothes. Such as when one porter tempts a chiselled jawed beauty out of a giant shell to come and order a ribbed Grecian column dress. The bell hops carefully taking her measurements with a tape, to a moody soundtrack by Paolo Buonvino.
“During World War Two artists and couturiers combined to create this theatre of fashion – mini dolls and costumes built to be sent on a world tour. So, I wanted to transform this concept, this conceit, and express it for today,” explained Chiuri.
The designer was also influenced by the “magnificently inspiring figures” of the Surrealist movement: women like Lee Miller, Dora Maar, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington and Jacqueline Lamba. Muses in each of their chosen fields.
“We were not trying to resemble a show, more tell a story. To me it’s Roma at kilometer zero. Plus, I like the fact that Matteo Garrone makes film like an artisan – which is my way of making fashion,” she added.
The collection is so alluring even a couple of forest spirits kissing passionately inside a tree give up their embrace for the lady to pick up a black dress in lace lattice and camouflage plissé. The clothes so chic they awake an ancient stone stature of a goddess, who fingers a sheath dress longingly. Both the shell woman and the ancient deity both recalling Maria Grazia with her current white mane.
Even someone who couldn’t care a hoot about fashion could only admire this beautiful film. After the dark days of the lock-down it felt like a generous gift by Dior to the world. A timely reminder of the importance of fantasy in all our lives.
Roman-born Chiuri spent the lockdown in her native city, which is where she designed this collection and where she shot the film with Garrone. He is best known for his brilliant Dogman, a dark gritty tale of a seedy drug dealing underworld which won the Palm d’Or in Cannes in 2018, light years away from Le Mythe Dior.
Where Dogman portrayed the lower depths of post-industrial Italy, Garrone’s work for Dior captures that unique quality of Italian filmmakers to evoke hallucinatory fantasies – A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Alban Hills. Yet, it all also seemed fitting on a day when Italy lost another great Roman, Ennio Morricone, the single most important composer in Italian cinema, that Dior should unveil this extraordinary film.
Only Narcissus, incapable of stopping admiring his own reflection in a stream fails to notice the clothes, in a neat feminist commentary on male vanity.
Marching through a bamboo forest a red-head muse fingers a diaphanous black pagoda shaped plissé gown, and turns to request her horny-headed Pan, who grants her permission to order the look. A purchase which she then celebrates by dancing in a stream, dappled light through the tress creating an image of rare finesse, thanks to brilliant cinematography by Nicolaj Bruel.
“The clothes are a collection that respects the craftsmanship of couture. And of the Dior heritage; from noble lines and special silk plisse that maintain volumes. Plus, the miniatures are all fully composed outfits,” noted Chiuri.
By the film’s end, even the mermaid had picked up a stone-colored gown in which she swims across a mossy bottom river in the Alban Hills; while nymphs weave the giant tresses of their Venetian blond leader by now attired in a burnished gold satin robe.
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