Maria Grazia Chiuri has been flying her feminist flag at Dior since she became the brand’s first female creative director back in 2016. Her debut collection featured the infamous “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” tee, and SS18 followed up with a “WHY HAVE THERE BEEN NO GREAT FEMALE ARTISTS?” slogan. So the riot inspired runway procession that ensued at last week’s AW18 presentation should’ve come as no surprise – things have been bubbling under the surface for a while. Unleashed by the #MeToo movement, perhaps?
In another celebration of women, Chiuri enlisted female war photographer Christine Spengler to capture this season’s backstage shots. The appointment is fitting – Spengler is the epitome of a strong woman. For starters, she asserts she has not once worn a helmet or a bullet proof vest while working. Also, because female photojournalists’ contributions to the practice have often been overlooked in favour of their white male counterparts’, the fact she has managed to hold her own makes her all the more admirable.
Spengler has dedicated her life to chronicling conflict and all of the women caught up in it and her work has been published in titles such as LIFE, The New York Times and Paris Match. She has also received many awards over the years, such as the renowned “Femme de l’Annee” prize.
“I had access to a whole world of women, to which no man could have access” – Christine Spengler
“I had access to a whole world of women, to which no man could have access,” is what Spengler told the Parisian house in an exclusive video interview. Her subjects were able to trust her – they would supposedly say, “this woman has a camera, she has the eyes of the world, she will be able to help us,” and therefore they let Spengler into their lives.
On one trip, Spengler even donned a veil to be able to shoot Iranian women during the 1979 Islamic revolution, something that would’ve marked any man a spy should they have done the same.
As a result, Spengler’s work is not your average documentary photography. The very fact she is female has enabled her to capture the more intimate sides to war. From photographing kids swimming amid military debris to shooting a bride stood next to a bombed building, she always cast her lens upon alternative scenes and settings to highlight the humanity between the violence.
Her shots from the Dior show feature a cohort of models clad in the AW18 collection charging forwards like an army, in the very spirit of the 1968 student protests – the ones Diana Vreeland coined a ‘youthquake’ – that Chiuri was referencing with the clothes.
Never one to stand by the sidelines, Spengler’s involvement tied in well. Adwoa Aboah, the outspoken activist and model behind the Gurls Talk initiative, was also interviewed ahead of the show.
The set featured archival protest posters, feminist slogans and paste-up magazine covers, and the catwalk backdrop bore the simple statement “I am a woman,” because lest it be forgotten, it is enough.