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Dior, anatomy of freedom

This article is published in issue 18 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until April 30, 2024.

Join your hands proudly. That diamond you formed is a symbol of pride and strength: your vagina. This is what the colored neon lights created by tell us Claire Fontaine (artistic collective founded in Paris in 2004 by the duo Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill) who welcomed the public to the Dior Fall 2024 fashion show Dreamed Upthe creative director's first ready-to-wear Maria Grazia Chiuri to New York. The older ones know that gesture well, it is part of the battles for women's rights of the 60s and 70s. More surprising to imagine it as an installation in a fashion show.

Maria Grazia Chiuri is faithfully following a path: the interpretation of the codes of the fashion house of which she feels she is the “curator”, and the valorisation, through her work, of the militant feminist artists who inspire her and whose values ​​she shares.

Chiuri is happy to be in New York because it is the fashion city of his youthful dreams, but it is also the one that made it international Christian Dior and which is part of the history of the maison. It was the first stage of the couturier's career in 1948 and the springboard to go global. The term New Look was coined here by Carmel Snow (then editor of Harper's Bazaar) and here he opened an atelier adapting his couture to the more functional and practical American lifestyle. The muse who supported him was Marlene Dietrich, an ambassador who also inspired this collection. «I re-proposed her couture jackets maintaining the silhouette, but lightening them», says Chiuri. «The German actress was a client and she wanted Dior for the outfits in Hitchcock films. She used fashion to define herself: sporty, androgynous and feminine, and she strongly built her own style. The relationship you created with a couturier then was very close, today it is different. The red carpet is already part of the performance of the film that the stars have to promote, they experience it as a project. While for Marlene it was a project of existence.”

Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Dior, with the artists Suzanne Santoro and the Claire Fontaine collective, formed by James Thornhill and Fulvia Carnevale.

This collection is also a bridge between Paris and New York, between two cities famous for their night skylines (which become prints on garments), the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, their being part of modern democracies. The two flags have the same colors and in a 1950s scarf, created by the artist Alexandre Sache for the then Dior designer Marc Bohan, they merge. «I transferred this print into sportswear and Saddle bag, a tribute to John Galliano. And I also added one with the print Gazette, because there isn't a film about New York in which a newspaper doesn't appear. And let's not forget that the Saddle bag was also in Sex and the City», continues Chiuri. Who in his pragmatic style proposed a collection that combines dreaminess and wearability, with everyday pieces and evening dresses where the nude is more a statement of affirmation than of seduction.

The set created by Claire Fontaine with neons inspired by the art of Suzanne Santoro.  The floor was made with...

The set created by Claire Fontaine with neons inspired by the art of Suzanne Santoro. The floor was made with tiles recovered in Palermo.

Parading at the Brooklyn Museum was Maria Grazia's dream. «He is the only one to have a gallery dedicated to feminist artists. It broadened the boundaries because my knowledge was linked to the history of the second Italian feminism, here I found an international vision. There is a monumental installation by Judy Chicago that I had only seen on video, and the first time I was very impressed because conceptually she wants to celebrate all the women of the past. I never imagined I would be able to collaborate with her, then it happened.”

Dior anatomy of freedom
Dior anatomy of freedom
Dior anatomy of freedom
Dior anatomy of freedom

Chiuri deserves credit for having made us discover conceptual artists not known to the general public to whom she has given global visibility, for having built a virtuous female circle (which also includes the stars of the front row: committed actresses with never taken for granted), a continuously expanding network. This time it's Suzanne Santoro's turn, born in Brooklyn in 1946 and then moved to Rome where she joined the Rivolta Femminile collective together with the art critic and philosopher Carla Lonzi, the artist Carla Accardi and the political journalist Elvira Banotti. The artist has focused his research on the female body and sex. «I was very fascinated by her work and, by chance, I met her at a dinner in Rome where Fulvia Carnevale was also there, a stimulating evening. It was a dream for me to bring her back to Brooklyn and create a bond between her and Fulvia that could give her work a contemporary vision. Santoro talked a lot about the female sex causing scandal and I wanted to give visibility to these messages. Amplified by the work of Claire Fontaine with whom I have been collaborating for the second year (it was theirs Think yourself free which caused a sensation on Chiara Ferragni in Sanremoed.)”.

The space dedicated to the after party after the fashion show where there was a performance by the musician Kim Gordon who is now...

The space dedicated to the after party, after the fashion show, where there was a performance by the musician Kim Gordon, who is now part of the group Free Kitten.

«In his visionary generosity he wanted to bring Suzanne back to America with a small exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and asked us to create a set that evoked her work», says Fulvia Carnevale. “We imagined something for her to reconnect with Towards New Expression, a 1974 book which was then censored, on the iconography of the female sex starting from its absence of representation. A work that delves into the archeology of the patriarchal unconscious. The neons reproduce the hands of the women who made this project possible: mine, those of Suzanne and Maria Grazia, the curators and the seamstresses. A gesture that creates a double vagina, not the unpresentable and hidden one, but the exhibited, transcendent one.”

What meaning does this gesture have for the new generations? “I think in America right now it reminds women that their rights to their bodies and reproductive rights cannot be trampled upon and their struggle to exist as a political subject is extremely important to our civilization and to our culture. Men are making decisions to the detriment of the lives to come, of the unborn”, underlines Carnevale, who is now present at the Venice Biennale, with multiple projects. «We were the muse of this year's title (Foreigners Everywhere – Foreigners
Everywhere) and we have works at the Vatican Pavilion in which we introduce the theme of gender language with the word foreigners written with the schwa. This is a queer Biennial, like Claire Fontaine, made up of a man and a woman.” And how does James Thornhill fit into all this? «He chose to be a female artist! Women's issues are fundamental for men because we live together and feminism is a resource of hope in times of war because it is a struggle that does not have as its horizon the assassination of the enemy, but rather honoring the love of those who do not respect us. We need to transform the present into something that makes us forget the past and does not ask for justice but makes the injustices suffered irrelevant. Because he repairs them by transforming them.” Chiuri is proud of her work with artists and grateful to Dior who supports her in this.
The world of luxury is certainly an aesthetic dream and aspiration. But it can also be the vehicle for messages that speak of freedom and reconciliation.

Michelle Williams.

Michelle Williams.

Zach Hilty/BFA.com

Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron.

Zach Hilty/BFA.com

Anya Taylor Joy.

Anya Taylor-Joy.

Zach Hilty/BFA.com

Naomi Watts.

Naomi Watts.

Zach Hilty/BFA.com

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Source: Vanity Fair

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