Maria Grazia Chiuri, the powerhouse creative director at Dior, has been known for her feminist-driven narrative. Through her fresh interpretations of haute couture and her keen interest in promoting the role of women in the fashion industry, she never ceases to amaze her audience. In her latest collection, the Dior Cruise 2024 (Resort 2024), she infuses the essence of Frida Kahlo, the iconic Mexican artist renowned for her unwavering spirit despite a tragic accident, into a contemporary cruise collection.
Set against the historic backdrop of Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City, the place where Kahlo once met Diego Rivera, the collection unfolded on a rainy Saturday night. Chiuri brought together a dazzling array of pieces reminiscent of Kahlo’s individualistic style, such as sweeping maxi skirts paired with cowboy boots, and floral-stitched Puebla dresses, creating a spectacle that diverted all attention from the persistent downpour.
Chiuri’s initiative of working with local artisans, as she previously did in Mumbai, remained a prominent aspect of this collection. Integrating traditional Mexican embroidery and weaving with contemporary Dior aesthetics, she crafted a collection that resonated with Kahlo’s spirit. Chiuri avoided clichés, ensuring that the local artisanal work neither felt tokenized nor customized, but instead blended naturally into the fabric of the collection.
The clothing line also highlighted Kahlo’s exploration of gender roles, showcasing suits with Spanish flair and boxy silhouettes, along with high-waist pleated trousers and ties. Notably, a black leather corset in the shape of a butterfly paid tribute to the corsets Kahlo wore after a life-altering bus accident.
But the Dior Cruise 2024 collection wasn’t merely a clothing line; it was a visual narrative embodying the connection that Christian Dior has fostered with Mexico since his first collection in 1947. Dior’s early work resonated with names like Acapulco and Mexique. He further forged his bond with Mexico when he signed a contract allowing El Palacio de Hierro, a Mexico City department store, to reproduce his collection for local customers, marking an early instance of brand localisation.
Chiuri herself revealed a long-standing admiration for both Mexico and Frida Kahlo. Inspired by Kahlo’s clothing style and her mix of Mexican and European influences, Chiuri sought guidance from Circe Henestrosa, the curator of a major Frida Kahlo exhibition, to identify artisan collaborators from Mexico’s diverse Indigenous communities. The result was a rich and respectful representation of Mexico’s vibrant textile culture and heritage, with the work of several skilled artisans featured in the collection.
Chiuri’s fusion of high fashion and traditional craft is a testament to her statement: “This is couture, it really is couture”. The blending of high-quality materials and intricate handcrafting tradition reflect her dedication to upholding the craftsmanship of couture.
In a fitting end to the show, Chiuri commissioned Mexican feminist artist Elina Chauvet to create the finale. The artist’s “A Corozan Abierto” (Open Heart), highlighted the plight of women who are victims of gender-based violence, echoing Kahlo’s resistance to being a victim and the feminist principles that both Chauvet and Chiuri stand for. This powerful message served as a stark reminder of the work still needed to combat gender-based violence.
In the Dior Cruise 2024 collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri successfully bridges the gap between past and present, traditional and contemporary, and infuses it all with a vibrant feminist narrative, truly a tribute to the indomitable spirit of Frida Kahlo.