During her research in the Dior archives, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Artistic Director of the women’s collections, had her interest piqued by a series of photographs of Niki de Saint Phalle. In one of them, the artist can be seen on a camel. On others, she’s posing for Dior during the tenure of her great friend Marc Bohan, then Creative Head of the House.
Embodying the beauty of her time, more adolescent than androgynous, small and fiery, Saint Phalle exhibits a style of dressing that’s both iconic and personal, and current in its proportions and whimsy. Her life is the study of literature. At the time of the liberation of women, Saint Phalle threw herself into a close relationship with art, the world and herself. Like all artists, she was driven by her emotions. And it is this feminine creativity that speaks to Chiuri.
Why have there not been great women artists? This is the question posed by Linda Nochlin’s essay in 1971, which also called out to Chiuri. It is necessary to give these different and specific artists their due, for it’s they who break the mould of the traditionally male discourse in art history, and in fashion.
These are the Nanas, sculptures of extraordinary women, but also the multicoloured hearts, the dragons, the tree of love, and the exaggerated and over-the-top masterwork, the Tarot Garden in Tuscany, which become patterns, broken embroideries and mirror mosaics in Chiuri’s collection and the show scenography. She is not afraid to take Saint Phalle’s exuberantly colourful palette and to make it dialogue with lace, silk, leather or plastic.
This collection, inspired by the artist, also refers Bohan and his little dresses and jumpsuits sometimes teamed with full skirts opening at the front. There are also large polka dots, black and white checks, trousers worn with ordinary or safari jackets, and teamed, according to mood, with men ‘s shirts featuring no stripes or polka dots, or of a romantic white: all borrowings from the vocabulary of Marc Bohan.
In a tribute to Niki de Saint Phalle’s series of experimental works “Les Tirs”, Chiuri designed the DiorClub1 visor for the spring/summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection. She references protective eyewear the artist wore for performances during which she shot at paint-filled balloons with a rifle.
After the visor, she created the DiorClub2 and DiorClub3 sunglasses. Feminine details are subtly added. Lenses in tangy colours, such as yellow, blue and fuchsia, seem to extend around a cut-out frame engraved with the star motif – a favourite of Christian Dior.