Resort shows have become a flashpoint for the fashion industry. The pandemic has brands rethinking their expense, their environmental impact, and the designer burnout they’re responsible for, and some big names have pledged to cancel them. On the other hand, it’s a crucial collection, the one that stays in stores and on e-commerce sites longest without going on sale.
Christian Dior’s CEO Pietro Beccari is a firm believer in the season. “People have to do what’s best for their own brands, but Dior has lived since 1946 by the sparkle of energy that is given by fashion shows. That’s our DNA; that’s our business,” he said on a WhatsApp call. “I strongly believe that we will go ahead with pre-collections. Also, cruise collections are our way to tell stories.”
That’s why the French house went to such extraordinary steps to stage tonight’s Dior cruise show. The setting was the Piazza del Duomo in Lecce, a small town in Puglia, in the heel of Italy’s boot. Southern Italy was a month later to reopen than the northern part of the country, and Lecce was a difficult place to get to even in the Before Times.
Aside from the models, Dior’s extensive teams, and a smattering of clients, it was locals who gathered to watch the show in the front row and on the balconies beyond the square. In that sense, it was very much the festa di piazza that the house’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri envisioned.
The celebrities, influencers, and members of the fashion press that typically attend Dior’s destination events were among the 20 million digital viewers Beccari expected to tune in. The house’s couture and men’s shows both hit that number earlier this month.
The locals were absolutely the story here. As Chiuri has made her custom with Dior’s recent resort collections, she spotlighted the region’s native crafts and craftspeople. The collaborations were made all the more resonant by the fact they were accomplished in the midst of the shutdown.
Marinella Senatore conceptualized the luminaries that lined the piazza, some of which were reproduced in the collection’s prints. Marilena Sparacsi was responsible for the rare tombolo embroidery that embellished one of Chiuri’s dresses. And the collection’s woven pieces were created by the Le Constantine Foundation, which was established by sisters Giulia and Lucia Starace to preserve this form of textile design.
The orchestra and dance company were local, too, and the press release delineated many other partners.
The 90-look collection erased the distinctions between the humble and the haute. There were pinafore dresses, blanket-fringe skirts, and hand-knit sweaters, and models wore kerchiefs in their hair and flat boots on their feet.
“Fashion has to be comfortable—that’s part of my DNA,” Chiuri said on a Zoom preview, pointing out the fact that the fashion reference she grew up with, the simple, draped Greco-Roman peplos, is “totally foreign” to the rigorous construction that became Monsieur Dior’s lasting signature. She bridged that gap by adding handmade natural leather corsets to many of her more diaphanous, unstructured dresses.
Chiuri’s father hails from Puglia, so she has a personal affection for the place, but championing the region’s craftspeople is equally part of her feminist project. “It’s important for the local people to understand the value of their tradition,” she said.
“Probably the most important thing that I understood during these four years at Dior—in Paris, they’re so proud about their tradition; fashion is part of their cultural heritage. But we don’t have the same attitude in Italy. Probably it’s because these traditions are made by women at home, so there’s this idea that its domestic work. They don’t think it’s creative work. They don’t give it the same value.
They don’t celebrate it. With this show, I hope to give a different point of view to the local people about that. It’s not only a dialogue with our audience outside, but it’s really a dialogue with the territory.”
Dior is a global juggernaut. Among the other July projects Beccari touted is the limited edition Air Dior release and the house’s biggest exhibition ever, opening in Shanghai next week. Nonetheless, in a season of lockdown, it was the human ingenuity and localism that gave this endeavour its unique appeal.