We Should All Be Feminists: Inside Maria Grazia Chiuri's Christian Dior Debut

Fierce women on the front row, fantastic gowns, underscored by the gravitas of feminism

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Can fashion ever truly be feminist? Or does it, by its very nature, hurt the cause?

That forever old debate is still alive and kicking. But this season, a shift is clearly in the works as women designers not only openly embrace the word but build their collections around the concept, offering up new ideas of what it means to be a woman.

This is also a season in which Paris is seeing an unprecedented number of women leading its houses, in a year in which we're seeing an unprecedented number of women heads of government.

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The import was clearly not lost on Maria Grazia Chiuri who is Dior's first creative director in its entire 70-year existence.

That fact gave her debut with the iconic house a very real kind of historical weight, a feeling heightened even further by the show's venue, the nearly century old Musee Rodin.

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She chose to use her first collection as a call for women's equality, in a building literally filled with old statues of nude men. Here a recap of all of the key talking points —there are a lot.

1) A FROW filled with appropriately fierce women

Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, Carla Bruni, Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss, Bianca Jagger and novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie were all there, front and center

2) 'We should all be feminists'

Adichie, a woman who has written and talked extensively in the past about a feminist's right to appreciate fashion, was front row for a reason. Her essay and related TED talk, 'We Should All Be Feminists' (famously sampled in Beyoncé's 'Flawless'), played a big role in the collection with the title appearing on t-shirts and her speech included in the show soundtrack.

'For her, as for Maria Grazia Chiuri, being a feminist is a way of spreading a message and a mindset in order to alter preconceived notions and pay tribute to the strength of women,' a statement from the house explained post-show.

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Besides the fact that she's just plain incredible, Adichie's involvement is exciting because it gives credibility and gravitas to Chiuri's use of feminism, in the face of those who will inevitably say, 'but she's just using it to sell clothes!'

The presence of Adichie also interestingly introduces the idea of race and intersectionality (so often overlooked in the discussion around women's equality) with Dior going as far as to highlight Adichie's history of 'examining the question of racism and the place of women in society' in its press notes.

3) Clothes for women by women

Once upon a time, the great irony in fashion was that women's wear was largely being dictated by men — people who don't actually even wear the clothes. And while this complaint seems to oversimplify the experience of making and wearing clothes, there is something to be said for a woman's innate sense of what the body needs.

Chiuri drove this point home before the show even began, by highlighting the women who work in the atelier through video clips posted on the brand's official Instgram account. In a statement, she said she wanted to 'be attentive to the world and to create fashion that resembles the women of today. Fashion that corresponds to their changing needs, freed from the stereotypical categories of 'masculine/feminine,' 'young/not so young,' 'reason/emotion,' which nonetheless also happens to be complementary aspects.'

That meant smart wardrobing with a bit of the fantastical mixed in: trim pea coats, bar jackets and blazers intermingled with full, dreamy skirts and ethereal gowns embroidered with tarot card and zodiac signs. And while those horoscope references were frankly a little flighty, the collection overall scored points for carrying a sense of meaning while communicating sheer desirability.

The clothes were youthful in spirit thanks largely to elements of sport (the tallest, sleekest high-top trainers) and streetwear (an elevated version of the Marky Mark men's briefs), but ultimately had a cross-generational appeal.

Her full tulle skirts and moto jackets were cool, but elegant. And women of all ages in the room were lusting after those t-shirts, which at the time of writing this recap have turned my Instagram feed into an indefinite, rallying scroll of #weshouldallbefeminists. Luxury fashion, commercialism, or not — I can't remember the last time a campaign did that.

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