In a world full of Kardashians, be a Niki de Saint Phalle. Simply put, this was what Dior's Spring/Summer 2018 women's ready-to-wear show at the Musée Rodin in Paris was about.
Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION
And it is not the first time that Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior's Artistic Director for womenswear, makes a statement by quoting or featuring women who are or were thinkers, movers, and shakers of their own generation.
Earlier this year, Chiuri made a collection that was influenced by the reputed Nigerian author and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the author's famous "We should all be feminists" quote could be spotted as a print on a Dior t-shirt, which sold like hot cakes and quickly became a must-have piece.
This time again, Chiuri's references to female empowerment were on point – don't get distracted by the many strass embellished A-shaped dresses, the polka dotted numbers, the Breton stripes, and the cute berets. In fact, if we take a look at the beret's fashionable history, we quickly realize that this headwear has a quite powerful past.
The beret comes with both artistic and rebel connotations. Rebels were wearing the Beret during the political turn in the 1960s, as it was symbolizing the revolution, and part of Che Guevara's uniform. It was then worn by political activists such as the Black Panthers, and later, it could be spotted on the heads of influential women, such as Marlene Dietrich and Yoko Ono – and today, it became a staple of Chiuri's women's collections for Dior.
Moreover, this Spring/Summer 2018 collection wasn't just about dissecting and re-empowering the Parisienne's wardrobe staples from the 1960s. As previously mentioned, Maria Grazia Chiuri was influenced by a boundary-pushing artist, namely Niki de Saint Phalle. The French-American provocateur used to pose for Dior, when her close friend, the designer Marc Bohan, used to be the creative head of the Maison.
Photo by Anna Palermo for NOWFASHION
Saint Phalle is known for her curvy "Nana" body sculptures, her paintings, and her conceptual art. Both a feminist and a risk-taker, she made a name for herself by disrupting long-held standards and conventions in the art scene, and for approaching the feminine identity like an iconoclast. Some major elements from her body of artworks inspired Chiuri this season: the aforementioned Nanas, but also her life-work, the "Tarot Garden in Tuscany," were a true inspiration to Dior's Artistic Director, who reinterpreted them through broken embroideries and mirror mosaics which were applied on preppy and androgynous womenswear.
But Saint Phalle was not this season's only muse: the guests at Dior were welcomed at the show with an essay by American author and historian Linda Nochlin, a 36-page booklet containing Nochlin's reputed work to advance the cause of women artists, namely her famous "Why have there been no great women artists?" article published in 1971.
Collection-wise, the charm of these two empowered muses was rubbing off on Chiuri's many urban-chic numbers. While the overuse of Dior's new slogan (J'adior, a remake of the Maison's iconic "J'adore" branding) might be too much of a good thing, Chiuri's take on nostalgia and her interpretation of the Maison's heritage through key pieces came with a brand-new, youthful spin – a desirable one.
"As in all fairy tales, before finding the treasure, on my way I met dragons, witches, magicians and the angel of temperance," read the entrance of the show setting at the Musée Rodin. This was not only a quote of Niki de Saint Phalle, but it was also an empowering conclusion: when you're a woman in a man's world – in Paris, less than half of the luxury houses presented on the official fashion week schedule are led by women – you have to go through fire and work twice as hard to get to the top and to stay there. Despite her success, Maria Grazia Chiuri doesn't forget to empower the women who are still on their way to the top, always reminding us that being a woman is a lifelong fight that needs to be carried out with both perseverance and humility.