Dior 2021 Autumn-Winter Couture Collection Exalts Textiles and Textures

If it’s true that humanity often lacks the ability to appropriately appreciate what we have until we suddenly no longer have it (we do spend far too much wanting what we don’t have), then the last seventeen months of quarantine conditions should have gone a long way to correcting that tragic flaw. Seriously, just being able to give each other a hug again feels monumental.

Culturally, the return to live concerts, art exhibits and, yes, fashion shows has made us feel more exhilarated than we’ve been in a very long time. And this week’s Dior Autumn-Winter 2021 Couture presentation at the Musee Rodin in Paris thrillingly brought back that sense of glamour and whimsy that had been missing from our lives as we dressed down and stared at the walls waiting for the COVID crisis to (mostly) end. Especially as the whole point of couture is to cast caution and pragmatism to the wind, and explore the farthest reaches of the possibilities of fashion.

Appropriately and poignantly, the 2019 book Threads of Life, by textile artist / curator / author Clare Hunter provided inspiration for Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest collection. In it, Hunter “traveled” across the globe and through the centuries to tell the story of how the art of sewing and embroidery and related crafts have had a significant impact on our socio-political advancements, especially for women.

The striking backdrop for the show was a work entitled Chambre de Soie (Silk Room), by French artist Eva Jospin (known for her use of cardboard as a medium), which depicted lifesize embroderies referencing the Indian-inspired Salle aux Broderies in Rome’s Colonna Palace. It created the effect of the models walking through a sort of textile forest – conjuring feelings that were at once palliative and yet intensely primal, and all matched perfectly by the music.

Most importantly, the clothes themselves were very much the result of a concentration on textile and texture, with highlights including a bar jacket in black velvet over a silk patchwork skirt with chain print; a black bouclé tweed cape and skirt embroidered with feathers; an oversize sweater in chine mohair; a cream silk gauze dress with braided details and woven chains; and a draped mesh dress with black guipure appliqués.

The show ended dramatically with the models all marching out to a lilting piano and an ethereally spectral wail, a decisive hit of raw emotion that viscerally captured the feeling of finally re-engaging with fashion’s wild imagination. Let’s hope we never lose it again.

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