Monday 27th December

| BY Angelo Flaccavento

Angelo Flaccavento Takes us to Athens for Dior’s Cruise 2022 Show

Dear Diary,

It’s been a long while since the last fashion trip; since the glory days of rather senseless but immensely amusing, surprising and ultimately glamorous globe-trotting for grand destination shows. The pandemic hit hard on many levels, halting the action for a good 15 months and forcing us all to enjoy fashion in cinematic mode in the cosy laziness of our domestic environments – no fancy outfit needed to compete with the rest of the fashion flock. When Dior announced, earlier in the spring, that its Cruise 2022 show would be held in Athens in front of a live audience – for the fashionistas and clients allowed to travel, of course – an electrifying sense of elation sprung in the air. We, as journalists, promptly shared calls and messages. Joy was the communal feeling: big smiles and the reassuring quasi-certitude of being (almost) back at it.

Wednesday, June 16

The day has arrived, finally. It’s a bit like the first day of school, and I am certainly as excited. PCR test taken the day before, Passenger Locator Form dutifully compiled, dressed in my mandatory travel uniform – a loose black suit with white T-shirt – the smallest hand luggage with me, hoping for swift travel and prompt arrival. At 8am sharp, I lock the door of my apartment just as the driver comes to pick me up. I share the car with my colleague Serena Tibaldi from La Repubblica (I am actually attending the show in my capacity as fashion critic for Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore) and there’s a lot of juicy chit chat on the hour-long drive to Malpensa. Ah, journalists: we always have something to gossip about, be it on the fashion system or the jobs merry-go-round. With the earthquakes currently shaking both Hearst and Condè Nast, there is a lot to talk about. At the airport, the Italian Dior PR team is waiting for us. When the Italian press group is complete, we head all together to the security check and finally to the gate. It really does feel like a gita scolastica, the school trip we used to take in high school. The flight is packed with tourists and Greek passengers, who look quite bewilderedly at our fancy fashion parade. Colleagues are sporting an array of woven Dior totes, which draw salivating gazes. As usual, I fall asleep right away and wake up minutes before we land. Once all the custom duties are complied with, we hop in groups into black vans and head to the hotel. That’s one of the parts I was missing the most: fancy accommodation and five-star treatment.

We stay at the extra swanky Four Seasons Astir Palace right in front of the sea in Vouliagmeni: the view is a joy to behold and the rooms, spacious and serene, are marvellous. Having enough time, and following the mandatory PCR test we all take in the hotel basement in order to board our return flight in two days, I rapidly change into my swimming trunks and head to the open-air pool for a quick dip before the welcome dinner. Vouliagmeni is an exclusive location, but the Acropolis is not exactly nearby, so it takes almost an hour to reach the Plaka, where the opening night is being held. This being Dior, the dinner is not happening in one restaurant, but in a fleet of tavernas that line the streets of this touristy but oh-so-charming spot. The scene is decidedly postcard-like: a moment of Greek camaraderie, just as one would expect. We have a lovely time and eat delicious food while exchanging greetings and smiles and hugs with fashion folks last seen in February 2020. It feels like a family reunion. The temperature is balmy and the company is perfect: the ideal topping to an exciting day.

Thursday, June 17

The day starts smoothly with an invigorating swim in the crisp morning light that softly hits the pool, but we are not in town for a vacation, so in no time at all we have to hop in the van and head to the city centre to meet Maria Grazia Chiuri. That’s another hour-long drive, which I would have happily spent by the pool reading, but these press conferences are a highlight of any Dior experience, be it in person in Paris or wherever the show happens, even digitally on Zoom. Chiuri loves to talk to journalists, explaining every little detail and uncovering the whole thought process behind her collections. She illuminates everything, fusses on the minutiae and passionately raves about the big picture, which honestly feels energising as a spectator and commentator. I have rarely seen a designer so interested in the act of making things, so enthusiastic about craft and collaboration, and so dedicated to the preservation and conservation of small workshops.

This is the main contribution, I believe, that she has brought to the house of Dior: a tactile and sensible focus on product that is warm and heartfelt, instead of being tainted with soulless marketing. The conference, held on the top floor of the Hotel Bretagne, with its aerial view of Syntagma Square, is an hour-long affair in which Chiuri talks about the details of her collaboration with Greek craftspeople. The Dior cruise collections are underpinned by extensive research. For this collection, she toured sites from Delphi to Knossos to bring together a community of artisans, inviting local artists to contribute to the collection: there is the tailor Aristeidis Tzonevraki, who created a book tote and a bar jacket using embroidery to define the structure, and Atelier Tsalavoutas, who reinterpreted the Hydra fishermen cap in Dior fashion. The Greek Silk Line factory turned Dior’s houndstooth into jacquard. This is a lot to digest, not having yet seen the clothes but, as ever, it feels captivating.

Once the conference is over, we head back to the Astir Palace for a quick lunch and another swim. At 7pm, dressed to the hilt, we hop in the vans and go straight to the show, which happens to be held in the history-drenched, magnificent and utterly impressive Panathenaic Stadium. It’s a glaringly white architectural gem built entirely in marble and the place where the very idea of sports was born – but also the stadium where, in 1896, the first modern Olympics were held. Pictures cannot convey the serene grandiosity of the site, the emotion of feeling history set in stone, nor the physical engagement required to climb the very high steps and sit on the white marble (on a soft cushion kindly provided by Dior). The place has been chosen for its highly symbolic value but also for its sports connotation; sport and Greece being the main inspirations for the collection. If it all sounds slightly literal, well, it is, but in a nice way.

The show starts as the sun begins to set, scored with a live performance by Greek-American singer Ioanna Gika. Models walk on a raised catwalk placed at the centre of the stadium, which further augments the monumental sense of grandiosity. The dramatic lighting and the distance between catwalk and seats make the act of looking at the clothes a bit difficult but who cares: this, for me and most of the invitees, is the first live show we’ve seen in 15 months, and it’s all the better for it. The collection is extensive, almost as big as the stadium, spanning the gamut of sports inspirations that swing from basketball to tennis to racing to fencing to boating, with an array of peploses (the draped robe worn by women in Ancient Greece), worn with sneakers, thrown in to further underline the Athenian feeling. Overall, one can witness an evolution towards a more dynamic and metropolitan spirit, which feels new at Dior. The show closes with a swan dress inspired by a 1935 photo of Marlene Dietrich but is also reminiscent of Marjan Pejoski’s concoction famously worn by Björk at the Oscars in 2001. The frisson is palpable and, again, it is like being brought back to fashion life.

After the show, we quietly leave the stadium and walk through the national gardens to reach the Zappeion, the neo-classical building where the informal post-show dinner is being held. Drinks are being served in the main room: a circular hall lined with a colonnade and an open rooftop. The vivid colours and the perfect sheen of the architecture makes me feel like I am in some Fifties mythologic movie. The time to file my newspaper story is approaching fast, so I pirouette on my own towards the exit, hop in a van and reach the hotel to write.

Friday, June 18

The alarm clock is set early, as we take the first available flight to Milan. It all goes smoothly, but when we arrive there is a sudden change of scene. Men’s fashion week has begun and, suddenly, it feels like being back to normal.

Taken from 10+ Issue 4 – BACK TO LIFE – out now. Order your copy here.

dior.com

DIOR CRUISE 2022: GODDESS

Photographer Christina Fragkou
Text Angelo Flaccavento
Date June 17, 2021
Location The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri
Hair Guido Palau
Make-up Peter Phillips for Dior
Casting Michelle Lee