The 2017 Fashion Awards took place on Monday, December 4th, and this year continued the recently introduced Swarovski Award for Positive Change. The award recognizes and celebrates “individuals who have made a positive impact on society, the environment or both, and forms part of Swarovski’s efforts to promote a more sustainable future.” Artistic Director of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, was set to receive it, and hers is a name worth remembering.
The award is of heightened significance this year, with a year having passed since the 2016 U.S. election and the political climate teeming with a variety of issues, women’s rights being ever-prominent. Chiuri recognizes her value in the industry, particularly being that she is the first woman to hold the title of Artistic Director for Dior. Her efforts have been notable, in that she strives to strengthen the link between feminism and fashion.
Her Spring/Summer 2018 line garnered attention for a series of striped shirts featuring the title of Linda Nochlin's 1971 essay, “Why have there been no great women artists?” Nochlin’s essay is a provocative and well-renowned commentary on the fact that art has been a task largely owned by the white, male, middle-class, and that the opportunities for women to take part in it have been too historically infrequent for them to make a name in it. The fact that Chiuri chose Nochlin's words for her clothing line is demonstrative of a change, both in the awareness of Nochlin’s issue and in the implications of it. She posits that patriarchal ideations have been so long-held that they are both within and around the female, and that never limiting oneself while also finding strong female support systems, is crucial to escaping those ideations.
While Chiuri doesn’t label herself an activist, she notes that Dior must be a brand of female empowerment. While she pays great respect to Dior’s traditional appeal and the nostalgia that the vintage work of the line brings, she argues that it doesn’t speak to contemporary female life. “Only with flowers?” she asks. “It’s not enough.”
Per her understanding, there is the common misconception that "the designer has to understand the women." Chiuri states, "Sometimes we have this message that the designer was a revolutionary. No, sorry. It was the woman that changed, and the designer understood and changed the line." She stresses the generational implications on fashion and holds that the current one demands value and flexibility.
Chiuri’s work is a force to be reckoned with, and there is hope that designers will note her progress and follow the trend. Female empowerment IS positive change.