Accompanying dancers embodied a delirious, entrancing freedom that distracted from the collection’s gloomy severity


The massive square of Dior’s showspace on Monday begged to be filled with spectacle. Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal and her company obliged. First moving individually through a cathedral of spotlights, they eventually fell into a mesmerising primal lockstep.

And then, into this atmosphere of transporting intensity stepped Maria Grazia Chiuri’s young models. They were dressed in various shades of dun, in drab, military-influenced culotte suits, in tie-dyed cargo pants. The shownotes spoke of “Energy that is both rigorous discipline and extreme freedom”.

Here, it was the dancers who embodied delirious, entrancing freedom. The models, with their bound heads and monotone, tended towards rigour and discipline. One guess as to which group the eye was drawn to.

It was a shame really. Chiuri also showed pieces of great delicacy, like tulle ballet skirts embroidered with flowers and Fortuny-pleated dresses and fluttering tiers of fringed white ruffles, but they were thoroughly muscled out of the way, not only by the dancers but also by the sturdier items in her collection, like the bleached denims, the ombré-ed topcoat, the army-influenced sportswear with the Mayan embroidery. And they didn’t move.

How much better if those clothes had been shown without the sturm und drang of the presentation, much as I loved watching Eyal’s group dancing. It got to the point where it was the models, not the dancers, who were the distraction. And what designer needs that of her “entertainment”? Especially when Chiuri’s clothes have a kind of humility which would benefit from the up-close-and-personal treatment. (Unless, of course, it is someone’s fervent hope that a spectacle will distract from precisely that quality.)

You can only imagine the challenges Chiuri faces as she addresses a job with the scale of her position at Dior. So far, she has found a way to face them by giving the brand a kind of feminist “new look” and weaving a network of fascinating female activists. Choreographer Pina Bausch, for instance. The first look on Chiuri’s catwalk on Monday had the monastic astringency of a Bausch dancer.

And even if, by show’s end, it had been supplanted by flesh-toned Delphic gowns, a slightly gloomy severity still lingered, accentuated by the berets the models wore. The show setting on Monday may have been an unwitting metaphor. Outside, Paris gloried in an Indian summer, while we sat in a cavernous dark bunker. Maria Grazia, let the sunshine in.