“I’d like to start a conversation between technology and everyday life,” says Maria Grazia Chiuri backstage a few minutes before the start of the Christian Dior Fall-Winter 2022-23 show. Subtle clues on the direction of this collection are floating around her – such as a cover of Donna Haraway’s Chtulucene piece, a driving force in feminism and post-humanism.
“I want to open a feminist outlook on what we envelop our bodies in, and how that has the power to free,” Chiuri says of a collection that she conceived as a discussion between technology, tradition and emancipation, and between past, present and future.
This is indeed what is reflected in the decor imagined by the feminist artist Mariella Bettineschi; entitled The Next Era, it consists of a gallery of famed portraits of women from the 16th to the 19th century, almost exclusively painted by men.
The eyes are sliced and stacked, a double set suggesting a “double vision”. “Women, in art or through clothing, have been constricted and I want to change that point of view by modifying their eyes,” the artist says, evoking the mutation between objectification and subjectification of women in her exhibited works.
Carefully situated between knowhow and renewal, the show begins with a bodysuit complete with organic artery-like seams that sparkle under a black light. The outfit is, like many of the pieces, made in collaboration with the Italian wearable tech startup D-Air Lab, and maintains a constant body temperature thanks to specially developed hi-tech fibres.
Then follows the classic Bar jacket, reinvented and enhanced with a system that regulates body moisture and can provide warming if needed, all in a mesh resembling grisaille and able to take an imprint of the wearer’s body.
According to Chiuri, this “everyday solution system that takes [wearable tech] out of the extreme sports disciplines” reinterprets the house’s heritage in a subversive way, and questions the functions traditionally associated with women’s wardrobe essentials.
The utilitarian dimension fuses with classic knowhow, and elevates and diverts the iconic New Look of the house, revisited in an asymmetrical, pleated way, with plenty of detachable and adjustable corsetry and belting.
There, puffer jackets and denim work are given a couture rendering; the leather is laser-cut; the materials range from the most intricate embroidery to waterproof materials, to nylon. Invisible structures and paddings are added as embellishment – yet also conceived to take a shock.
As for the Saint Laurent show, theatrically held in front of a glittering Eiffel Tower – something of a tradition for the house – it is a bridge to another history that this collection is building.
Indeed, creative director Anthony Vaccarello delves into the art deco style and the spirit of that era, more specifically the wardrobe of radical activist publisher Nancy Cunard, known for her masculine-feminine silhouette. This results in an updated version for 2022, opening with flowing gauzy dresses covered in shell-like outerwear, revisiting masculine classics including pea coats, ample leather trench-coats, maximised Perfecto blousons, all elevated by skinny, strappy glittery sandals.
This is followed by sportier lines, such as leggings worn as pants and contrasted with chunky furs; the nightly affair is concluded by tuxedos and slouchy suits, complete with chopped Garçonne haircuts – echoing Yves Saint Laurent’s then shockingly innovative Le Smoking suits.
Somewhere between working woman and party girl, Vaccarello reinvents la Parisienne, all with a subtle whiff of a Gucci-era Tom Ford, and reimagined for the local underworld.