Dubai, 18th March 2019.
'Is it a man or a woman? It’s neither one nor the other – it’s a clown.' *
The circus is a magical place. Inspired by this fantastical world, a subject of fascination for so many artists, Maria Grazia Chiuri created a Spring Summer 2019 Haute Couture collection that was presented in Paris in January.
Christian Dior loved going to the Cirque d’Hiver, where Richard Avedon, who had an extraordinary gift for capturing the essence of Monsieur Dior's style, shot the celebrated photo Dovima with Elephants in 1955. One of the fashion world's most emblematic images, it evokes perfectly the majesty of haute couture. In 1950, British television also covered the House’s show at The Savoy in London with a report titled Dior 'Circus' Comes To Town.
The circus theme reappeared later at Dior under John Galliano’s creative direction. For isn’t a fashion show, after all, akin to the parade that inaugurates a circus show? Great 20th-century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Erik Satie, Serge Diaghilev and Léonide Massine joined Jean Cocteau – a regular at the Cirque Medrano, which also counted Federico Fellini among its fans – to develop the ballet Parade in Italy between Rome – the birthplace of Maria Grazia Chiuri – and Naples, before presenting it in Paris in 1917.
For Maria Grazia Chiuri, this fantastical creative chaos provided the starting point for this new haute couture collection. The visual unfurling of the pieces that compose it represents an unleashing of the memory and the imagination associated with the circus through costumes, fashion and art, extending and the evocation of Cindy Sherman's work focusing on clowns. This collection consists of a superposition of images: a woman’s tattooed skin, reminiscent of the Victorian circus and its fairground phenomena, becomes a motif-drenched unitard that shapes the body and tells a wearable story under dresses. Powdery shades that come together and blend into an in nite palette – like those on the curtain painted by Pablo Picasso for the ballet Parade – also symbolize this sense of the worn, of the fine dust that sprinkles stage clothes. Skirts embroidered or inlaid with opaque sequins are shortened as tutus that nod to the circus codes of acrobats, tamers and riders.
Maria Grazia Chiuri employs this broad variety of images to compose her own “parade”, comprising full and very light pants, narrowing at the ankle, which can also become sumptuous jumpsuits. Shorts are paired with sheer white shirts accented with ruffs or ribbons seemingly frayed with the passage of time. There are also leather corsets and the geometric white clown outfit, whether spare or sumptuous, reinterpreted through its materials, embroidery and proportions.
To this dreamlike parade, fteen entirely new creations have been added especially for the collection's presentation in Dubai.
These fifteen exceptional silhouettes, enhanced by the dazzle of gold, intense reds, and subtle shades of green and lilac, symbolize all the excellence of the savoir-faire in the Dior Ateliers. Pleated skirts shimmer like rainbows, accentuating the celestial magic of the circus even more. And then there are the long, fitted redingotes punctuated with hand-embroidered frogging, and tamer's jackets — a flamboyant reinterpretation of the iconic Bar jacket.
These unique and marvelous creations revisit Dior codes through an eminently feminine contemporary vision. The grace and evocative power of the circus render sublime the "Kingdom of Dreams", as Christian Dior described the magic of dresses and haute couture in his memoirs.
* Quotation from the book Le Costume de clown blanc: Gérard Vicaire, la passion pour seul habit by Sylvie Nguimfack-Perault (Editions Chapitre Douze, 2016).