On a day when religious processions snaked across Seville to mark the Feast of Corpus Christi, Maria Grazia Chiuri staged her own spectacle in the Andalusian city, taking over the vast Plaza de España with a fashion and flamenco show for Dior’s annual cruise collection.
Guests including “Bridgerton” star Charithra Chandran, French actresses Laetitia Casta and Amira Casar, influencer Chiara Ferragni and starlet Stella Banderas mingled in the venue, which was decked out like a street festival with strings of lights and striped tents furnished with handpainted wooden tables and chairs.
“I wanted to realize a ‘feria’ too, in a way,” Chiuri said during a preview. “It’s absolutely not religion, but at the same time, fashion is community work.”
British singer Celeste, who recently performed for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in a Dior dress, said the vast semi-circular plaza, built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, made her feel like dancing. “I imagine myself twirling around with my fan, with some castanets maybe,” she said.
Elle Macpherson came with her son Cy Busson, a budding model who is rumored to be walking in the Dior men’s show in Paris on June 24. “I love Kim Jones, that’s all I’m saying,” Busson demurred, referring to Dior’s artistic director of men’s wear.
“He’s a student in college, studying business. Fashion is not really his first choice but, you know, who can say no to a men’s show in Paris?” Macpherson added with a smile.
Fresh off the VivaTech conference in Paris, Dior owner Bernard Arnault jetted in for the evening, filming the show set on his cellphone as the sun set and a light breeze provided welcome relief from days of sweltering heat.
As musicians beat out a rhythm on box drums, a male and female flamenco dancer battled it out on opposite ends of the stage before being joined by a troupe of dancers in red, for a performance devised by Spanish choreographer Blanca Li. An orchestra struck up a score by Alberto Iglesias, a Spanish composer known for his atmospheric Pedro Almodóvar film soundtracks.
Dressed in a black trouser suit, the female dancer, Belén López, stomped and twirled up a storm, evoking legendary flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya, who revolutionized the discipline in the 1950s by performing in men’s clothes.
Chiuri said Amaya, known as La Capitana, was a key inspiration for the collection, which contrasted trim equestrian suits with cascading ruffled skirts and fringed shawls, mingling references from historical paintings to dressage uniforms, and showcasing an array of Spanish craftsmanship.
The designer tapped artist María Ángeles Vila Tortosa to create four posters, similar to those used to announce flamenco shows, depicting Amaya in different poses. The pastel-toned art works were used as prints on items including a cape-sleeved jacket and a series of voluminous bustier gowns.
“I think the most important thing about these dancers is they use their body like a musical instrument,” said Chiuri. “When I did the fitting of the dancers, it was incredible. All the girls immediately started to dance. It was impossible to take a normal picture.”
She was struck by the regal bearing of the Spanish performers. “They are really proud, strong, poetic – ‘el fuego,’ truly. Big energy, that’s what I really love,” Chiuri said.
It resulted in one of her most accomplished collections yet, rife with desirable clothes and exceptional details, like the three-dimensional gold thread embroidery, borrowed from liturgical robes, on one of the house’s signature Bar jackets.
Chiuri, who has made full-skirted silhouettes a signature of her tenure at Dior, riffed on the theme with belted midi styles, such as a rose-red skirt tufted with fabric whorls, and huge tiered floor-sweepers.
She tempered her sultry off-the-shoulder blouses and barely-there lace tops with sharp suits, inspired by old images of Jackie Kennedy riding with the Duchess of Alba at the Feria de Abril in Seville.
The equestrian outfits ranged from prim jodhpur suits to folkloric-style bolero jackets and vests, which were accessorized with black leather gaiters, riding crops and wide-brimmed hats made by the Fernández y Roche workshop.
Chiuri’s sporty bent often guides her into tomboy territory, but here she worked the masculine-feminine contrasts to kinky effect, pairing mannish turnup pants with a white ribbed vest, suspenders and a fringed shawl embroidered with the Christian Dior name.
There was an erotic charge to black riding pants worn with a cobwebby knit top and lace-effect leather opera gloves, while chaps, in openwork leather or Dior Oblique logo canvas, added a playful touch.
Chiuri used the annual cruise collection as a platform for showcasing local talent, drawing on the huge pool of workshops involved in maintaining Seville’s ornate church altars and religious statues.
“In each area, there is one church with their Madonna, and the community celebrates her like someone that is part of their family,” she said. “This idea of a community, this kind of party in the street, touched me because it reminds me so much of Italy, and southern Italy especially, when I was young.”
It turns out the Virgin Mary also packs a fashion punch.
“She’s like the queen, and she’s dressed like a queen,” Chiuri said, noting that the statues are prepared by special attendants in a dedicated room of the church.
“They change her dress for different ceremonies, and she has a wardrobe like a real woman. It’s unbelievable, the way clothes are linked with the representation of her. I never found books in fashion that speak about this link,” she added.
Dior plans to continue working with some of the workshops it scouted for the collection, illustrating one of the many economic benefits that Spain stands to reap from the show.
Pietro Beccari, chairman and chief executive officer of Christian Dior Couture, said he expected 200 million people to watch the event online. “I’m really sure that there will be an explosion of tourism in Andalusia after this show,” he said.
“They are engaged in a nice battle with Madrid to be the second most visited city in Spain after Barcelona, and I think that we are going to give them a big hand, therefore we have been welcomed by the mayor and by the local authorities of Andalusia in a majestic way,” he added.
Seville allowed Dior to privatize one of its top attractions, the Royal Alcázar, for a welcome cocktail the night before the show. “It’s never been done before, and I think probably no other brand as big as Dior ever asked. And, again, it takes two to tango. They give us something special, but they know that it’s something special to host Dior in the city,” Beccari said.
While the brand has no plans to open a store in Seville, it is scouting for a new location in Madrid, where it has three boutiques. “There is double- or triple-digit growth with the Spanish, but we see also that Americans are back, as are tourists from Southeast Asia,” the executive said.
Dior, which barely paused during the coronavirus pandemic, has stepped up its pace of runway events in recent months, with a pre-fall show in Seoul in April and a capsule men’s line bowing in Los Angeles in May. After the upcoming men’s show in Paris, it’s due to unveil the fall haute couture line on July 4.
Beccari plans to keep up the brand’s breakneck pace of events in the second half of the year.
“We came out of the crisis accelerating instead of slowing down. In July 2020, we did the biggest turnover in Dior’s history, in terms of volume, and we are gaining market share. We are ahead of the competition, and we need to stay there,” he said.
“Our calendar will be as packed. This has been the first six months so buckle up, and be ready to rock and roll with us,” he said.
Chiuri was clearly in her element with the show in Spain, which completes a Mediterranean trilogy, after cruise events in Greece in 2021 and Italy in 2020. The flamenco performers felt it too, swarming around her in an explosion of spontaneous dancing and singing after the show.
Afterwards, they streamed onto the dance floor to mingle with guests, flipping and twirling their red skirts well into the night.