MILAN – Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri lured the French fashion house to her childhood haunt of Lecce, in southern Italy, to preview the 2021 cruise collection with a live destination show Wednesday that has become a fashion world rarity in the coronavirus era.
But the show almost didn’t happen.
‘’It is a decision we took in a very difficult moment,’’ Dior CEO Pietro Beccari said in a phone interview. ‘’It was against all odds, in April, when the question was: Do we stop the work with the local artists? Do we stop the work we have started?’’
Beccari said even though Italy's coronavirus lockdown was still in force, Dior decided to go ahead with the show previewing 90 looks also to support the local artists and artisans who had already been engaged. Chiuri chose Lecce in a nostalgia bid, having spent many summers in the Salento region where her father was born.
The original date was postponed from May 9, too close to the first easing of Italy's lockdown, and guests were limited to fewer than 80, mostly friends and family members of the designer and CEO, plus relatives of the artists.
‘’We did it with a lot of optimism, and trust, and with a big sense of responsibility,'' Beccari said.
During the show in front of the city’s Duomo cathedral, models walked past an elaborate installation of colored lights by artist Marinella Senatore, typical of a street festival in the southern Puglia region. An orchestra from the Notte della Taranta folk music festival played from a band shell as dancers wove in and out of the models’ path.
The looks, which had a couture peasant feel with corseted waists, smocks and kerchiefs, included fabrics from the Constantine textile laboratory, an association of women in the town of Uggiano La Chiesa who maintain a lace-making tradition
For the finale, models walked through a lighted arch under the neon words: ‘’We Rise by Lifting Others.’’
‘’Tonight, I received really a lot of heartfelt congratulations and thanks, which moved me deeply because of the work we did with these people,’’ Beccari said. ’’The mayor said, ‘You don’t realize, you allowed some families to eat, to have hope, to have work.’’
That included hoteliers, and behind-the-scenes workers to pull the show together included also electricians, wood workers and caterers.
Recent fashion weeks in Milan and Paris were mostly digital, due to travel restrictions and distancing precautions imposed by the virus. Destination events like the one in Lecce are also falling out of favor. And September shows in the main fashion cities of New York, Milan, Paris and London still remain up in the air.
But while other fashion houses are paring down their calendar of events, Dior is running strong.
Besides the cruise show, Dior this month opened a five-story flagship store in Paris, launched a collaboration with Nike and its digital show for menswear. It is opening a 2,400-square-meter (24,000-square-foot) show in Shanghai on July 24 -- twice the size of an exhibition last year at London’s Victoria and Albert museum of art and design.
Beccari is not even sure that disaster is on the luxury horizon -- despite lockdowns that forced stores to temporarily close their doors.
‘’I have a very modest approach to these people making big declarations about the fashion system. I think every company is different, each has a different business model and each has a different type of client,’’ Beccari said.
‘’I think in terms of shows, we need to promote Dior. We are a fashion brand, and I think this injection of novelties keeps the interest of many of our clients. ’