Tuesday 22nd January

| BY Claudia Croft

Dior: Couture SS19

Roll up! Roll up…to Cirque de Dior, a wondrous place where reality is checked at the door. For her SS19 couture collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri was inspired by the eternal fascination the circus world has for artists and designers. Her show notes mentioned Cindy Sherman, Cocteau and Picasso as well as Avedon’s famous photograph Dovima with Elephants (shot at the Cirque d’Hiver in 1955 the image is so haute it hurts). Chiuri’s modern couture circus was held in a vast big top, paved with harlequin slabs and opened with a Dior-clad troupe of female acrobats (London’s Mimbre troupe) who wound around each other, contorting themselves into a series of incredible balances.

These strong women standing on the shoulders of even stronger women, (surely a metaphor for Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminism) formed an honour guard for the models who streamed into Dior’s three ring circus. From the very first look – a black plunge fronted, sailor dress, frothing with frills at the hem and worn with star spangled boots – it was clear that Chiuri was moving away from the serene romanticism of past seasons, towards something quirkier, more intense and theatrical. The collection was full of unconventional pieces. Joyful little playsuits were bedazzled with glittering beads and worn over crystal studded nude bodysuits. There was a red ringmaster suit, Pierrot collared gowns and drummer boy jackets decorated with dramatic gold frogging. One model swept by in a swirl of golden pleats.

But just like her acrobats, Maria Grazia Chiuri got the balance right. The fun and flamboyance was interspersed with seriously crafted moments. The skills of the atelier at Dior are next level. One precision cut tuxedo coat showed off the elevated exactitude of couture perfectly. Impossible but real – that’s the essence of it.

Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans