Maria Grazia Chiuri came across archive footage of Josephine Baker performing in Dior couture in New York in 1951 in New York. The brilliant American-born French black star and civil rights activist came to perform in Paris in 1925, becoming a Jazz Age cabaret figurehead and a French citizen. During World War II, she joined the French Resistance and, in 2021, was finally honored as one of the greatest of the French nation when her name was inscribed in a solemn ceremony at the Panthéon in Paris.

What a source of inspiration for the creative director, especially after the discovery that Baker had been a client of the house. “She was truly an incredible, empowered woman,” Chiuri said at a preview at Dior headquarters. She dedicated spring haute couture to him and surrounded the show with a gallery of portraits commissioned from Mickalene Thomas showcasing a new pantheon of equally groundbreaking black and biracial Hollywood actors and models of the 20th century, with Josephine Baker in her center.

Instead of literally relying on Baker’s famous imagery as a showgirl, Chiuri took a more subtle, pared-down approach. She had also studied lesser-known photographs of Baker in restaurants, wearing daytime suits and in uniform during the war. The collection was all the more discreetly powerful.

“The line of this collection is more 20s,” she says. “Cleaner, less bulk, more my attitude.” Her project, as she conceives it more generally at Christian Dior, is to “renovate” and make the house’s classic canon lighter and easier to wear – and above all, now, to meet the growing demands of couture clients. for day wear.

There were Deco-like shimmery bead changes that were somewhat reminiscent of flapper dresses, for sure. Well-defined moments of green-room looks, with silver slides or structured lingerie, but covered with coats of velvet bathrobes. A third of the way came an exceptional gold-cloque midi suit, the jacket reminiscent of the iconic 1947 Bar jacket, but structured, without corsetry to skim the body rather than pinch.

She took the same smart approach to boning and undoing the grandeur of the off-the-shoulder Dior ballgown, using artfully crinkled satins, in slate gray, liquid silver or pale gold. There was a beautiful simplicity to these effects – like ideal heirloom dresses rediscovered in a family trunk.

But the real surprises were the time Chuiri took to show off her understated, impeccably cut suits: the simplicity of Dior’s double-breasted gray skirt suits; a minimally perfect tuxedo coat; long and thin silhouettes in black. Everything in terms of decoration was on the feet: platform sandals in velvet, embroidery and ankle straps. Surely that will be more than enough to have modern-minded customers flocking to Christian Dior to fill that gaping gap in chic clothes to wear for the day.

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