Guests arriving at the Dior Spring 2021 fashion show may have had a sense of dejá Vu. As the fashion flock traveled to Paris from Milan last February, Italy started locking down several regions, including the northern fashion hub town. The Paris collections kick-off when Dior shows on the second day of the calendar. Buyers and press wondered then about the fate of PFW fulfilling its scheduled nine-day affair, and many in the industry cut their trips short or canceled altogether to avoid catching the new virus.
This season, a similar sense is lurking as the French government imposed further restrictions on the countries’ hot zones, including Paris over the weekend. Major changes include bars not being open past 10 PM, indoor gyms and pools closing, and a discouraging of formal family gatherings like weddings, birthdays, etc. for example. On Saturday, the number of new cases rose to 16K in 24 hours, causing alarm among government officials.
But this time, many things were noticeably different. A show that typically invites 1500 people reduced its numbers to 350. (Private corporate events capped at 1,000 from September 26th versus 5,000 though it’s not entirely clear what event with that many attendees had been taking place anyway. Public events such as a picnic in the park or by the Seine cannot exceed a group of ten.)
Not that Dior had to ax 1150 people from its guestlist; significant drop off occurred as countries such as the US, China, Russia, Brazil, and others have been banned from traveling here by either France or the corporation with whom they work. This time, temperature checks, mandatory masks, hand gel, and wide-open seating plans were in place to make the event a safe one for all.
The women’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri reflected some of the angst brought on by the pandemic. She expressed this through ‘stain-glass’ window art created from articles on art and its history collaged in front of a lightbox by Lucia Marucci. In front of it, the choral group Sequenza 93 sang a work by Lucia Ronchetti based on Sardinian’ Voceri’ chants of the 19th century. The music slash spoken piece created a disturbing and strangely melodic soundtrack for the relaxed collection the designer showed.
Reflecting a WFH trend as imagined through the intellectual eyes of the poets and artist, Grazia-Chiuri imagined the brand’s signature Bar jacket in a karate-style, Boho-tunic dresses, denim uniforms, and riffs on a classic white shirt. She infused some cheeky barely-there knit knits and lace minidresses peppered with chiffon flowing gown that had elegance and ease meant for staying home. This being fashion, pandemic or not, a protester from Extinction Rebellion stormed the runway at the end of the show bearing a flag that read “We are all fashion victims.”
While the designer’s vision may have skewed somber, Dior CEO Pietro Beccari was his usual upbeat self, speaking with me minutes before the show. And with good reason. He and his team scored a coup by being the first major fashion brand to partner with Tik Tok to post the show live and film accompanying the collection. “Mr. Dior was an innovator. We are inventing new ways of using digital,” Said Beccari, adding, “We were also the first to launch our new saddle bag in 2018 with a synchronized digital drop using our teams from around the world. Now we see other brands doing this.” He credits his strong team for sealing the deal with Tik Tok, coyly admitting his daughter is how he knows the social media newbie.
Digital has proven to be a good strategy of Dior’s that keeps getting better. “Normally, we reach 25-30 million views of our show, but with the resort show that had no live audience, we managed to reach 40 million views,” explained Beccari. “It’s great if we can invite 1500 people normally to our shows, but with all the money we spend, all the images we shoot, it’s great we can use this to reach more viewers.”
Another point of pride is despite showing the cruise collection two months later than usual, the production stayed on track, and that collection hits the store on October 29th. “If you think about that, it’s very quick,” he pointed out.
He can also boast his summer pop-up and temporary stores’ success, which wrapped up over the last month. “We made several million euros with those stores despite the crisis grabbing a very captive audience that we hadn’t had the chance to before,” he said, breaking down the difference. “This year, the French stayed in St. Tropez; the Italians in Capri, Portofino, and Porto Cervo, where locals were surprised to find our presence. We didn’t have the regular tourists that come to the major cities this summer.” A new location in Bodrum, Turkey, in the Yalikavak Marina, was the most successful of them all, according to Beccari.
The CEO can’t release specific numbers, but parent company LVMH stated that Dior appears extremely and remarkably resistant to the downturn in luxury. That’s in part due to their accessories business and items like the new Bobby bag named after Christian Dior’s dog, which launched in June, already showing promising results. He can’t release numbers but advised tuning in to the next LVMH company statement released on October 10th.