One year into her tenure at Christian Dior and designer Maria Grazia Chiuri is in her stride. If last season had been something of a meditation on feminine strength and solidarity, for the designer's anniversary at the fashion powerhouse, there was a clear question on her mind: "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" Opening the presentation with this dialogue – emblazoned on Breton stripe – Chiuri showed how much can happen in a year, both on-and-off the runways.
Taking inspiration from art historian Linda Nochlin's 1971 essay, which posed that very question and was distributed on every seat at the presentation, Chuiri's journey of discovery also led her to the Dior archives, to French-American 'outsider' artist Niki de Saint Phalle – who had modelled for Marc Bohan in the early '60s. Drawing from de Saint Phalle's vibrant and flamboyant palette, exaggerated, eccentric female forms and cartoonish monster figures, nicknamed 'Nanas' by the artist, the designer infused these playful elements across the collection. From both plain and striped sweaters, to sheer skirts, tees and even shimmering sequined mini dresses; expect to see these popping up across Instagram and on the front row in the months ahead. Polka dots were also a key feature throughout, along with crackled-mirror shard mosaics, picking up the pace for the finale on bodices, mini dresses and under tulle skirts in the zingiest of metallic hues.
Giving a nod to her Autumn/Winter 2017 all-beret army, the headpiece still featured – this season with an added ladylike mesh veil in black, navy and even denim – but wasn't uniformly distributed, letting many a glossy half up-do flow free and unfettered. True to the house's art of decoration, an array of bags all clasped at the side met with a little de Saint Phalle magic in a riot of print, tassels and metallic disco shades, while the previous season's Christian Dior guitar strap still took its place on key pieces.
A collection more about the nature of inquiry than seeking to furnish with definitives, with its optimism, playfulness and vigour all bound up with that unmistakable Chuiri craftsmanship, the designer makes her mark in Dior history, and then some.