"Think we must. We must think*."
For this spring-summer 2020 ready-to-wear collection – which showed on the runway in Paris on September 24th and was revealed in Shanghai on October 19th – Maria Grazia Chiuri drew inspiration from archival photographs of Catherine Dior – Christian Dior’s sister – showing her surrounded by flowers in her garden, her passion. An essential protagonist in Dior’s history, she was a courageous heroine of unique determination and force of character: she embodied Miss Dior. Not only was that her nickname, the House’s first, now-iconic perfume was so named in her honor.
Catherine tended the Dior family’s gardens. She was a gardener in the most complete and profound sense of the term — a woman who cultivated freedom and independence, acting in harmony with nature and the cycle of the seasons. This new collection evokes – through its motifs and embroideries, through shine and the texture of raffia – a vision of luxuriant vegetation, presented in the manner of herbaria, living catalogues and the memory of botanical species.
For Maria Grazia Chiuri, these creations have little to do with nostalgia or the revival of a decorative tradition. Rather, they raise questions, like at the beginning of a long journey, about what caring for plants and flowers means today. Though we are living in the Anthropocene era – in which man rules the planet – is it still possible to re-establish the balance of this relationship? Such questioning gives rise to concrete utopias, like that of Monte Verità, a community based on avant-garde ideas that was founded in Switzerland in the early 20th century, that has been a constant source of inspiration for all manner of artists ever since. The aura of this singular place, built on a hillside on the banks of Lake Maggiore, illuminates a series of dresses awash in color, from yellow to red. This place where anything is possible has often drawn dancers to it, and was recently a source of inspiration for Sébastien Bertaud of the Opéra National de Paris. Exclusively for Shanghai, the choreographer created a performance that will be part of the runway show**, a powerful, poetic collaboration between the French artist and Maria Grazia Chiuri, a continuation of their captivating esthetic dialogue that began with the ballet Utopia***. The costumes designed by the Creative Director seem as if painted on the skin itself in subtle plays on transparency. Floral elements, in unexpected colors, magnify the body’s movement, more than ever creating a mysterious garden, a magical alchemy between nature, art and culture.
Conscious of the visibility and responsibility her role as Creative Director entails, Maria Grazia Chiuri wished to create an “inclusive garden”, a place of co-existence and diversity in which every gesture counts. The scenography for the show was designed in collaboration with Coloco, an atelier committed to the collective art of cultivating gardens as a driver of urban inclusiveness. These landscape artists conceived the show like a moment suspended in time, where plants from local nurseries temporarily come together. The trees that will take up residence at the Shanghai Exhibition Center for the duration of this show will continue their journey, joining a long-term project in the new Nanda eco-neighborhood in the heart of Baoshan District, so that this pluralistic garden’s life may endure, rich in the diversity of its plant species. More than a décor, this ephemeral landscaping concept thereby heralds the creation and reinforcement of wooded areas, a symbol signifying that everyone can contribute to the cultivation and preservation of nature’s beauty – and our future.
As imagined by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the woman gardener observes the infinite and ongoing project that every parcel of land represents, however small or vast it may be. At once delicate and determined, this ethical field of action is the expression of mindfulness and caring.
* Isabelle Stengers and Vinciane Despret (according to Virginia Woolf), Women Who Make a Fuss: The Unfaithful Daughters of Virginia Woolf, 2014
** An exclusive performance created especially for the show and performed by 10 dancers, including étoiles, or stars, from the Opéra de Paris, soloists from the New York City Ballet, and other ballet dancers, notably from Milan’s Teatro alla Scala.
*** A creation by Sébastien Bertaud presented from July 19th-21st, 2019, during the spectacular Origen festival in Switzerland, held in The Julier Pass, more than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level.