For Maria Grazia Chiuri, the Rome-born creative director of womenswear at Dior, the prerogative for every woman is that “she should be able to express whatever she wants to with her dress”. Her autumn/winter 2018 collection took its inspiration from the Surrealist artist Leonor Fini, an early associate of Christian Dior and one of Elsa Schiaparelli’s collaborators. Fini believed that the more beguiling an outfit, the more one would show of oneself — clothes as self-expression were a key part of her schtick.
Like Givenchy, Chiuri’s collection was mainly monochrome, featuring optical, arresting chequerboard designs, domino spots, slim-tailored suits and sober blacks. The Surrealist touches were subtle. A lot of it was lovely. Even though Chiuri’s ready-to-wear is grounded in the everyday, her previous couture collections for Dior have placed an emphasis on a more whimsical femininity — fairytale tulles and mythical motifs. This was a bolder, stronger outing, save for the odd transparent cage dress. A mink cape, in white, was cut like a fish net and worn over a column of black. It recalled a guest at Truman Capote’s 1966 Black-and-White ball. And that is no bad thing.
Iris Van Herpen, the Dutch designer, is more occupied with the natural state of things than the matter of gender politics. The laser-cut body suits and dresses of her “Ludi Nature” collection were created with 3D print technology to mimic the topographies and “engineering” of the natural world. Van Herpen’s interpretation of couture is to push boundaries, both technical and conceptual, where the body becomes part of a bigger sculptural statement. Some of it is surprisingly wearable, too.