Feminism is foremost for Maria Grazia Chiuri. So much so, it’s featured in her spring-summer 2017 debut collection for Christian Dior. Amid the swathes of tulle, silk chiffon and georgette, a nondescript white tee emblazoned with the words “We should all be feminists” made its way down the runway at Paris Fashion Week—a moving manifesto from the newly appointed artistic director.

As the first female to own the role, Chiuri’s bold outlook echoes Dior’s founding vision of feminine expression, with a 21st-century twist.

“I strive to be attentive and open to the world and to create fashion that resembles the women of today,” says Chiuri. “Fashion corresponds to their changing needs, freed from the stereotypical categories of ‘masculine/feminine’, ‘young/not so young’, ‘reason/emotion’, which nonetheless also happen to be complementary aspects.”

Challenging the representation of gender is not new to the maison. In 1947, Dior’s revolutionary New Look became an international success when he stripped the shapeless fashions the war had created and highlighted the curves of the female form. To this day, the house remains synonymous with all that is femme, with each artistic director creating their own interpretation of the Dior legacy: Bill Gaytten’s refined elegance, John Galliano’s sensational glamour and Raf Simons’ synthesis of classic and contemporary.

Just like her predecessors, Chiuri puts her own spin on the house’s dainty designs by doing away with a one-size-fits-all approach to femininity. Rather than moulding a woman’s silhouette à la Monsieur Dior, Chiuri is inspired by a realm where a body’s strength is prized—like the art of sport. At once Olympian and opulent, her collection presents a sophisticated take on the fencing uniform: sleek sneakers lend an elegant athleticism to gossamer skirts, while lithe, ladylike bags arm each ensemble like a rapier.

This iteration of Mademoiselle Dior is one we haven’t seen before, whose style dictates itself with an unabashed attitude. Emphatic accessories spell out her refinement and resilience with a laconic “J’aDior” —a subversion of the house’s iconic phrase.

Chiuri shows us that like sport, fashion’s transformative nature can be used to move us away from societal expectations and stereotypes, allowing us the freedom to express our femininity in any way we choose. Simply put by Chiuri, “Learn to follow your own dreams.”

Shop Dior Spring 2017 in-store only.

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