For Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female creative director of Dior, fashion shows are more about the world stage than the catwalk and she has routinely used the runway and her platform to speak about women’s issues and champion female empowerment.
Despite Chiuri's reputation, it is fair to assume that of the hundreds of celebrity guests – including Uma Thurman, Sigourney Weaver and Alexa Chung – who arrived at Dior’s couture show on Monday, few were not expecting to walk through a 300-foot-long installation of a birth canal.
The 80-year-old made her name in the 1970s with the now iconic “The Dinner Party” installation, which consisted of three tables set for 39 inspirational but often forgotten women from history.
Chicago’s latest project was inspired by a public sculpture she designed back in 1977 as an ode to maternal power, which resembled the stylised figure of Cybele, the ancient Anatolian mother goddess.
“We walk in the way we came out. Everybody wants to go back to the womb,” Chicago joked about the space she had created for Dior’s latest show.
Inside the colossal sculpture, the runway was decorated with one thousand purple flowers and flanked by a series of banners that were made with the Chanakya School of Craft, a non-profit organisation that aims to empower women based in Mumbai.
The banners created a thought-provoking backdrop to the collection and questioned what the world might look like if it was run by women: “Would Buildings Resemble Wombs?” “Would God Be Female?” “Would There Be Violence?” “Would there be equal parenting?”
Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP) after the show, Chuiri revealed the thought process behind the sculpture of the reclining goddess, saying: “Women’s power is not just reproduction, but the power to create.
“The real problem is that we don’t think (as women) that we can dream. Doing this collaboration with Judy is also a way of telling young women that there are references in art and fashion for them – people who have gone before them.”
Chiuri added: “You can do it. Your life is not predetermined to be a mother. I am very happy to be a mother, but it is not the only thing that I am. I am also a creative director, a wife, a friend.”
The installation, titled “The Female Divine” will be open to the general public from 21-26 January.
Chiuri has championed female empowerment ever since she began her tenure at the luxury label in 2016, transforming it into a vessel for modern feminism.
From celebrating female artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Leonor Fini and Niki de Saint Phalle, to sending models down the runway in t-shirts that said, “We should all be feminists”, Chiuri has made it clear that she isn’t afraid to get political.
In July 2019, the designer’s determination to empower women throughout her career was recognised by the French government as Chiuri was awarded the Legion of Honour.
Marlene Schiappa, France’s Secretary of Equality between men and women, was on hand to present Chiuri with the accolade, and said: “Feminism, that word which has too often been rejected, is making a comeback, largely thanks to you – and also thanks to this little rising singer called Beyoncé.
“Convinced that fashion is a political act, you are careful to reflect your values in each of your designs, and under your leadership, fashion shows are turning into fascinating conversations between fashion, art, culture, activism and feminism.”