The exclusive realm of haute couture shows is generally a place where fantasy has full reign. But with the world in seeming freefall, Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri felt it was time to “imagine a better tomorrow.” 

And so she did. Chiuri—appointed in 2016 as the first woman to lead the iconic French fashion house—set out to create a world for Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection inspired by the Tree of Life, a crucial element of Ukrainian folklore that references the country’s rich and storied history in embroidery and costume. 

The collection features a number of motifs and sets inspired by the whimsical world of Ukrainian artist Olesia Trofymenko, whose embroidered artworks Chiuri saw in a recent exhibition at the MAXXI Museum in Rome earlier this year. 

That exhibition, entitled “Short Stories: Contemporary Artists from Ukraine,” was on view through April 25. It included 140 young and emerging artists and was curated by Solomia Savchuk, in collaboration with Fondazione Imago Mundi. 

Trofymenko’s works proved so captivating for Chiuri that she decided to make them the centerpiece of her couture show, held on July 4 at the Musée Rodin in Paris. 

Dior haute couture autumn/winter 2022 scenography. Photo: Adrien Dirand. 

Trofymenko, born in 1982 in Vilcha, Ukraine, currently lives and works in Kyiv. She studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in the Ukrainian capital and is known for works that reference the distinctive floral patterns identified with Ukraine’s history. Her decorations are imbued with folkloric customs that are present not only in Ukraine, but in many cultures of the Balkan region and Europe. 

In large photographs lining one half of the runway, Trofymenko’s works were hung to give the audience a sense that art and fashion have always been intertwined. “It’s really a project that has inside this idea that art and artisan are at the same level,” Chiuri told Reuters after the show. 

The haute couture pieces—intricately crafted patchwork opera coats, slim jackets, and long dresses with wide sleeves, all constructed in soft, neutral colors and fabrics like beige wool gabardine, cotton canvas, and black velvet—were in some respects an ode to the French house’s own history. In some of the garments, stylized florals drifted around hemlines, teasing away at the full-skirted maxi dresses, all of which were hand-embroidered with motifs inspired by Trofymenko’s artworks hanging nearby. 

Dior Haute Couture autumn/winter 2022 show. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

In an interview with the Guardian backstage after the show, Chiuri said that the pieces represent “womankind, the continuation of life, and a bright future.” The collection was ultimately aimed at creating a bridge between cultures during a time of political strife. 

Building that bridge was also part of how the garments themselves were constructed. Some of the fine detailing, as is customary in haute couture, were done by Dior’s Paris-based petits mains, but a significant portion of the embroidery—on both the artworks and the dresses—were completed by Indian artisans from the Chanakya School of Craft and Chanakya ateliers in Mumbai.

“It’s important to have this dialogue and to share these skills,” Chiuri told the Guardian. She added that couture must evolve beyond its Paris-centric sensibility and emphasized the role of the fashion house in linking people and cultures: “When you work by hand, you are close to humanity.”

In keeping with a tradition started with a Judy Chicago display that accompanied a Dior show at the Musée Rodin in 2020, the museum will leave the exhibit open, with Trofymenko’s artworks up for the public to see until July 10. 

Below, see more looks from the Dior autumn/winter 2022 collection.

 

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

A look from Dior’s autumn/winter 2022 haute couture collection. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

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