Of course, this is Dior, so there’s nothing reductive going on. Instead, she drew on that straightforward geometry for tunic-y blouses and billowing skirts rendered in the most exquisite of laces, or in cottons exuberantly splashed with Mexican flora and fauna, all vivid pink, green, and terracotta shades. In particular, Chiuri looked at the Tehuana clothing of the Zapotec women, with their huipils and petticoat-like skirts. Thinking about that was just one of the ways she was led to a heroine of hers, Frida Kahlo, who made that indigenous dress not only an essential part of her identity as a woman and as an artist, but part of her fierce critique of patriarchy, class, and gender.
For Chiuri, Kahlo is “an icon.” She said: “I’ve always felt close to her and to what she did. She was an artist who was the first to use her work to express her thinking about her body and her wardrobe; her clothes were part of her project. But also,” she went on to say, “she was very connected to the natural world, to mother earth, to the idea of metamorphosis.” (The latter is as much responsible for the butterfly leitmotif as the print that Chiuri found in the archive that was used by Marc Bohan when he led Dior back in the day.) The recent exhibition at the Palais Galliera in Paris devoted to Kahlo, “Beyond Appearances,” gave further impetus, and Chiuri turned to the show’s curator, Circe Henestrosa, to help make the connections in Mexico that could tell the story of her collection. (Henestrosa’s brilliant show is now at the Kahlo museum Casa Azul, which was formerly the artist’s family home. I defy anyone not to be moved by the sight of Kahlo’s corrective corsetry, intended to deal with the aftermath of a horrific accident when she was young, and presented in a way that borders on the forensic.)
Decentering her resort from Paris has also meant Chiuri lets others take center stage, driven by a desire to highlight the work of artists she admires, or to carefully highlight the beauty of craftsmanship elsewhere, and how crucial it is to preserve it, and those working to support communities where that craft is intrinsic to it. This time round, that meant working with the likes of Hilan Cruz Cruz, a young man who’s a Nahua weaver, and a co-founder of the Yolcentle textile workshop. (Chatting before the show, he’d praised Chiuri for her respect, coming to live and learn with him and his co-workers for several days.) There are artisanal textiles from Pedro Meza Meza, the founder of Sna Jolobil, Remigio Mestas, and Narcy Areli Morales, who established Rocinante, a company committed to revitalizing craftsmanship in Oaxaca.