Christian Dior Pre-Fall 2021 Collection

According to post-pandemic trend forecasts, 2020 has made fashion puritans of us all. Awakened by the simple life in lockdown, we are supposedly emerging with an ascetic and sensible approach to ‘investment shopping’: that classic black wool coat, that navy jumper, that comfy trouser. “But I don’t want a black coat,” Maria Grazia Chiuri said on a video call from Paris, breaking out in laughter. “I want a leopard coat!” The Christian Dior designer was in high spirits, illustrating the objective she set herself with her most animated collection to date. “Now, we desire something that gives us energy. Something completely different,” as she put it.

“After this year—so intense, so depressing—I would like to come back to the fashion that started my career: the playfulness that attracted me and my generation to fashion, and transform the Dior codes through this attitude.” For Chiuri—a child of the 1970s—those roads had to lead to Elio Fiorucci. Back then, she and her friends would congregate in his fabled store, synchronically dressed in the designer’s angel motif t-shirts, denim pants, colored plastic boots, and transparent handbags.

“My generation was super influenced by pop culture,” she recalled. “At Fiorucci we saw another way of fashion. It was probably the moment that fashion was born in Italy, because we left our traditional clothes to go to this toy store and discover clothes we’d never seen in our life: different materials, and clothes from around the world.” In her archives, Chiuri found a post-war parallel to that exuberance in the leopard-print coat Christian Dior made for the fabulous Mizza Bricard, a woman so devoted to having a good time that she never got out of bed before 2pm.

In the year of lockdowns and curfews, that spirit—along with an art study on pop that included Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, and Marco Lodola—compelled Chiuri to create an uncharacteristically colorful collection. Outfits traversed a silver jumpsuit, graphic see-through raincoats, skimpy skirt-suits in technicolor checks, T-Rex prints, and mirror-sequined party dresses. It showed a cheekier side to the designer, whose work is often characterized by exhaustive research and a commitment to using her platform for activism. In her ateliers, she said, “we decided that when this is all over, we’re each going to choose a different color dress and have a big party. That’s the dream: to dance together.”