While Dior’s Cruise 2021 show — set in Puglia, Italy — was meant to be a noisy, social affair, tonight’s performance (streamed live on Dior’s website and social channels) remained determinedly enchanting, with the house’s Italian creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri paying homage to the region’s ancient and mystical traditions.
Here, Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri talks to Vogue about the importance of family and the power of magical thinking.
How did the southern Italian region of Puglia influence the Cruise collection?
“We decided to show in Puglia back in November 2019. I proposed to show [here], a not so well known area, not just because Lecce [the main town in Puglia’s Salento peninsula] is a city that I really love, but also because it’s close to my family — my father worked nearby. This show is about craftsmanship, the references that I vividly remember from the past: the embroidery, the textiles that I saw my grandmother and uncle make when I was a child.”
Was there a particular reference that inspired the collection itself?
“There is a book called Sud e Magia [Magic: A Theory from the South], which was written in the 1950s by [Italian] anthropologist Ernesto De Martino about a trip he took around southern Italy after the second world war. At that point, the area was poor. De Martino observed the celebratory magic rituals that the locals would perform with dance and music, including the pizzica tarantata [an Italian folk dance and ancient healing ritual against tarantula bites] and found that the magic in these traditions helped the people believe in the future.
“When you are desperate, you need to think that something magical can happen in your life. That touched me. When I began working on [the collection], I had no idea what would happen to us, but now, to have this idea of magic that can help — it offers strong energy in a negative moment. What’s very strange, also, is that when I arrived at Le Costantine Foundation [a Puglian textiles studio and agricultural centre], I realised that their motto is ‘Amando e cantando’ [loving and singing]. That’s the mood I want for this show. Something really positive. A show where people enjoy life, with music and movement.”
Will we feel that same spirit of Puglian craft through the clothes?
“In November, I took a trip around Puglia [visiting] all the artisans that were in the area to collaborate. On this journey, I found beautiful artisans such as Le Costantine Foundation, which supports local women who work with textiles designs. They produce incredible textiles that present all the different traditions of the region by hand, using a loom. It’s important to celebrate this kind of craftsmanship, especially because there is this idea, not only in Italy but around the world, that these crafts normally made by women are domestic work rather than creative work.
“Another small group of women, who maintain a tradition called tombola — a specific form of embroidery that takes a long time to do — overseen by [expert artisan] Marilena Sparasci made embroidered roses to continue the tradition of a Miss Dior dress [a floral embroidered gown first created in 1949]. She made these incredible flowers. They’re super fragile, a real work of art.”
What is the significance of the performance itself?
This season, for the music, composer Paolo Buonvino has created a new interpretation of Puglian music, with exclusive compositions he has written for us in collaboration with an important foundation called the Notte della Taranta that works to keep the region’s strong history of music and dance alive. The famous Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta will be performing. [Buonvino] also asked me to invite choreographer and Dior collaborator [choreographer and dancer] Sharon Eyal to work with local dancers from the foundation.”
What were the greatest challenges you faced when putting together this show?
“When we started the collection, we had no idea Italy would be hit by this terrible pandemic crisis. When lockdown happened, it was difficult to stay connected with all these creators I’d selected back in November. But I called and said, ‘We can try [to work via] WhatsApp, by computer, we can still try to [make] something together.’ Doing this [type of] work from home is difficult, especially because the idea was not to make a simple show, but a big party where we could celebrate together with the local community. For a period of time, we had no idea if we would still be able to realise the show.”
How will you feel the moment the live stream airs?
“I’m sad that we don’t have an audience, of course, because our idea was to share this moment with the whole community. But at the same time, it’s important to go ahead and honour the work of all of these people and creators involved. Right now, for us to have this creativity and work in a different way — it’s a form of demonstrating our belief in the future.”
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Originally published on Vogue.co.uk