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The politics of Cruise collections has become fraught with debate in recent years. Questions of their appropriative export of cultural heritage, extractive in nature, and encouragement of superficial tourism have come to the fore. Yet Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, conceives of a different Cruise collection showcase, one in which rich engagement with craftspeople, and a rigorous education in local tradition serves as a grounding tether. For their 2023 Cruise show, Dior takes us to Seville, the heart of Andalusia, for a sumptuously interwoven program of Flamenco, orchestral music, and vibrantly woven fashion storytelling.

The evening began with a spirited Flamenco performance, followed by the orchestral accompaniment of Seville’s Orquesta Bética Filarmónica. Throughout the night, the music interchanged between orchestral suites, Rosalia’s flamenco inspired hits and polyrhythmic traditional Flamenco. Andalusia has found itself as a cultural crossroads for over a millennium; the region’s strongly maintained cultural heritage is informed by a patchworked history of cultures that have made the region their home throughout the years. The Plaza de España is no exception. Built in 1928 to host the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, the Plaza features a mix of Art Deco, and various revival architectural styles, blending modernity with traditions of Spanish architecture. It is here that Maria Grazia Chiuri interrogates iconographic zeitgeists of Andalusia’s past.

The iconic gravitational centre of the collection is Carmen Amaya, otherwise known as La Capitana. She was the first female Flamenco dancer to receive international attention for wearing pants as she danced, liberating her movements and style of dance. Maria Grazia Chiuri has always taken inspiration from Christian Dior’s early work clothing women in androgenous silhouettes, and this show is no exception. Her collection features pinstripe suits, high waisted black trousers paired with black suspenders and round, flat-brimmed hats (one straw, and one felt). The hats were in-part inspired by a series of photographs featuring Jackie Kennedy and the Duchess of Alba’s 1966 equestrian excursion (the Dutchess notably also held a Dior show at her Madrid Palace in 1959). The show began with pared-down silhouettes in a black and white colour palette. But, as it continued, deep reds, and arabesque floral prints began to grace the runway. Locally elaborated editions of the brand’s iconic Saddlebag were held by some models, while others carried meticulously embroidered lace fans, also traditional to the region. By its crescendo, red, yellow, ochre and black taffeta skirts were introduced alongside astonishingly elaborate lace gowns.

Throughout the collection, partnerships with local craftspeople anchored Maria Grazia Chiuri’s engagement with Andalusian traditions; Dior Couture traditions met Andalusian local craft to invigorate a shared value of material heritage. A notable example of this is Chiuri’s black velvet rendition of the Dior Bar Jacket for this show, which features gold thread embroidery by the Jesús Rosado atelier. In documenting her research journey for this collection, Chiuri marvels at the ways in which various Virgin Mary icons are adorned with examples of local craft from embroidery to lacework, to metalsmithing. On one such research trip, in the Santuario de los Gitanos, she also encountered lace Romani sashes, inspired by Jewish cultural tradition. In a melding of craft, traditional clothing references and Dior house heritage, the Cruise collection features Manila Shawl capes reinterpreted with “Christian Dior '' branded embroidery. The shawls, produced by the María José Espinar atelier, stand as an example of traveling objects in the collection, finding their origins in China before ending up in Andalusia, and then Latin America. In this way, Chiuri’s collection attempts to reinvigorate a spirit of multiculturalism and globalism and encourages rich engagement with local traditions rather than superficial tourism.

Isaac Crown Manesis

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