To Mexico City with Dior, which showed its Cruise 2024 collection in the baroque courtyard of the Colegio de San Ildefonso, the place where Frida Khalo met Diego Rivera. Khalo wasn’t the only titan of Mexican culture the designer referenced – photographer and revolutionary, Tina Modotti and surrealist painter Leonora Carrigton were also in her mind, as was Mr Dior’s own fascination with Mexico – one of the dresses in his debut 1947 collection was called ‘Mexico’ in honour of the place.
It’s unsurprising that Maria Grazia Chiuri, a champion of feminist artists, would be drawn to Khalo, a woman whose style was as influential as her art. An exhibition of the artist’s work in Italy made a lifelong impression on her. “It was the first exhibition I saw in Italy of a woman artist,” said the designer. “It was really something that affected me…because she used clothes to define herself.…She mixed Mexican and European, but at the same time she maintained her personality. She was a genius.”
There’s a famous portrait of Khalo wearing a man’s suit. Chiuri used it as a touch stone for three-piece suits. Corsetry played a part – Khalo broke her back in a bus crash and would paint on the the plaster corsets she wore to support her spine. She also wore traditional petticoats and the huipil – a square tunic which Chiuri adapted for the 21st century, tucking it into a pair of high-waist red jeans.
As is her practice, Chiuri collaborated in depth with local artisans and craftspeople. She engaged the consultant Circe Henestrosa to help source makers from the many Mexican indigenous communities. (Henestrosa recently curated Frida Kahlo: Beyond Appearances at the Paris Galleria, which explored how the artist’s style related to her art and featured over 200 of her garments.) Henestrosa found highly skilled indigenous artisans to embellish Dior’s clothes and accessories. The result was a life affirming meeting of traditions and histories; a cross-pollination which created something new and vibrant. The Mexican artisans went to town on Dior’s signature bar jackets and added chain stitch huipils to Dior’s modern fashion lexicon. “This is couture. It really is couture” said Chiuri of their intricate handwork. Meanwhile, the Mexico City jeweller Rafael Villa Roja, provided hand-made silverwork butterfly rings necklaces and metal belt buckles. Silhouettes mixed Dior shapes with Mexican flair. Full maxiskirts were worn with cowboy boots. There were floral embroidered Puebla dresses, tiered fiesta gowns, charro-style embroidered vests and trousers and delicate white lace tunics and skirts.
The show ended with a collaboration with the feminist artist Elina Chauvet highlighting the appalling femicide epidemic in Mexico. Models filled the courtyard wearing archival 1950s white cotton toile dresses each embroidered with a message of hope, warning, and loss embroidered in red thread.
Photography courtesy of Dior.