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Dior unveiled it’s latest haute couture collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the couture defilé took place at Museé Rodin, and had a unique set design staged by African-American artist Mickalene Thomas. The spring-summer collection was guided by Chiuri’s homage to Joséphine Baker, the African American princess of jazz who sang “I have two loves, my country and Paris.” She later on acquired French citizenship and was widely acclaimed by post-war Europe. Chiuri came across archive pictures of Baker performing in Dior couture, and after discovering that Baker had been a client of the house, the Creative Director of womenswear decided to dedicate Dior’s latest couture collection to Baker as an ode to empowered women.

A member of the French Resistance and of the Civil Rights Movement, Baker has been reinstated as an icon of glamour of the House of Dior. Joséphine Baker embodied the modernity of the roaring twenties, the transgression of prejudices, and the celebration of multiculturalism. Artists, intellectuals, and writers of the cosmopolitan city of Paris were known to celebrate Baker for her humanist spirit, civil rights activism and universal benefactress. Supporters of Baker included Monsieur Christian Dior himself who dressed the dancer in Dior creations that crowned her charisma and success – as such Baker would be responsible of bringing French fashion across theatre halls in New York.

For Chiuri, haute couture provides an opportunity to delve into the Maison’s craft of thought and explore the intricate thought processes that come to play when designing couture garments; a body-garment, a body-home, a body-manifesto. Chiuri offered a collection which reflected Baker’s history as a muse of Dior and at the same time offered a counterpoint to the infamous Banana Dress that Baker's image has become synonymous with today.

As a result, this year’s haute couture offering is lighter and easier to wear – clean cuts, sharp tailoring and less volumes make this runway collection one of Chiuri’s most transgressive shows ever since joining the Maison back in 2016. Through a mostly black and white colour palette – the collection transports us back into the 1920’s as garments are adored with swinging fringes, structured lingerie, crushed velvet gowns, 20s suiting, watery silk lamés, creased satins and delicate beading.

For the staging of the show, Chiuri commissioned a series of portraits from Mickalene Thomas, with whom she had previously collaborated on the Dior Cruise 2020 collection. Surrounding the runway was gallery of portraits showcasing an eclectic pantheon of black and biracial women who have become exemplary icons by choosing to think and act differently. Women who have queried the status-quo and achieved feats – Nina Simone, Donyale Luna and Naomi Sims, Dorothy Dandridge, and Hazel Scott, with Joséphine Baker at its center.

“These women have broken many barriers in television, film, fashion and social activism. It is because of their determination and sacrifices that I am able to make this work and be the artist I am today,” says Mickalene Thomas.

Nur Rezai-Mah
Cover image
Laura Sciacovelli

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