In Egypt, Dior Reinvented the Fashion Blockbuster
One of many divine sights that puncture the horizons of Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Giza is awesome, silent, wondrous proof that civilisations, no matter how robust, or how refined, have a sell-by date. For the Pharaohs, that was around 3,000 years. But in the shadows of this colossal tomb, a much younger dynasty laid claim to a new, mystical age. Its name is House Dior, and it’s still very much in its king era.
A fall collection that revealed itself in the scorched Giza desert at nightfall was textbook Kim Jones: vast, elegant, cinematic. The tombs of ancient pharaohs lit up, a snake of LEDs illuminating the runway into existence to the sound of pounding techno. Jones is an auteur as much as he is a designer, pulling from both the Dior archive and the world beyond it to create pure spectacle. The man knows how to put on a show. When the invitations—bone white and handwritten, naturally—listed the venue as Cairo, fashion’s chattering classes were right to be gassed.
The clothes were a sea of neutrals in unneutral gear, as sand, stone and whites were decoupaged with tulle scarves and watery layers. It was futuristic, as it so often is with Jones, and peppered with tailoring that never tried too hard; jackets that are generous in the shoulder and sleeve, but atop roll-necks and technical pieces. The synthesis of tailoring and sportswear is difficult to achieve, and yet Jones manages to make it crackle. It’s his signature. It fed into his party boys of Dune‘s planet Arakkis, armour and all, with the house monogram serving as the base plate for lilac body vests. Elsewhere there were more than a few balayage space helmets. Oxygen shortage, but make it Dior.
There was also a little superstition to the sci-fi. Knits in bangs of colours were souped up with the bread-and-butter of the superstitious: the Illuminati pyramid was ablaze in one graphic; constellations of the Zodiac in another.
Under the stars and before the silent wonder of the pyramids, it all felt a little mystical. That’s kinda the point. As both a Fall collection premiere and a birthday party for Dior’s 75th, Jones wants the celebration to be spiritual, to focus on the cosmos—much like the ancient Egyptians, who built the show’s breathtaking backdrop to reflect the star path of Orion’s Belt above. “With this anniversary and the collections’ we’ve done that are all entwined and building to a conclusion, it felt appropriate to do something very special at the end of the year,” Jones told GQ ahead of the show. “It is the summing up of past, present and future in a place—in front of the Great Pyramid.”
As per the show notes, Monsieur Christian Dior himself was a superstitious man, and found his own ”lucky star” by tripping over a trinket on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Some would have found little meaning in it. But Dior saw more than meaning: there was a message, a premonition that his destiny was in haute couture, and he was famously known for using his astrological faith to guide the house.
This is not the Jones administration’s first space programme. During lockdown, Dior launched its Fall 2021 collection into the outer galaxy. Dreamt up in partnership with Kenny Scharf, the hi-graphic East Village artist that helped drive the creative rebrand of his New York neighbourhood, the collection saw very Dior tailoring splashed with intergalactic illustrations. Further back, there was a show in Tokyo with the king of retrofuture erotica Hajime Sorayama, complete with metallic saddle bags and a giant robot centrepiece. It even fired lasers out of its face.
Remember all of that, and the accessories of this evening’s show come as little surprise. They were pod-like, and aerodynamic; rucksacks in identical shades of grey like portable android tortoise shells. The belt bag—real money maker of the Dior brand—was repurposed as a muff, a pair of models’ hands wedged into each side of a bag with more than enough zippered compartments.
This sort of futurist take on the Dior doctrine comes naturally to Jones. Because his Dior is of neo-couture, where historical cuts see a forward-thinking redesign, like the wool demi-kilt, a descendant of a “Bonne Fortune“ Dior bias pleated dress from the ‘50s. It was everywhere in the collection. And this nebulous space in-between past and future is where Jones seems to feel most comfortable. He’s both a historian and a forecaster.
And the pyramids were nothing but insurance for the future, too: spiritual holding pens before the great pharaohs headed for the afterlife. That scenery loomed large over today’s proceedings. In the digital age, the fashion show has become an actual vis major: an event that is irresistible and inescapable. Runways have to be shared. They’re considered “content,” like everything else. And thus, designers choreograph set pieces that swing for the top spot of the Explore page: like Coperni’s spray-on dress of Bella Hadid and Jacquemus’s long lavender walk to viral some seasons ago. It makes commercial sense. But while one could shrug off Dior’s Egyptian runway as just another chapter in this new era, Jones, a multidisciplinary artist, sees something universe-y in the shadow of the pyramids. This worldbuilding has purpose and depth beyond sheer spectacle. It’s a collection that pays homage to Monsieur Dior, the ancient Egyptians that came before him, and, perhaps, his own destiny.
Like the pharaohs all those millennia ago, some of fashion’s royalty are reckoning with their own mortality. Raf Simons shuttered his namesake brand after 27 years. Riccardo Tisci is to depart Burberry. Just last week, Gucci closed the book on Alessandro Michele’s fairytale. But Dior’s kingdom is still in a golden age. The emperor does have new clothes. More than that, his vision is ever-evolving. “It links directly to Christian Dior in that sense of looking to the past to a way to the future, and by way of his fascination with symbols and superstitions that recur throughout his life and work, one of which is the star,” says Jones. “The idea of ‘guided by the stars’ shapes the entire collection.”
At the show’s end, a live, full-bodied orchestra stringed Max Richter compositions into life, the crowd awestruck not just at the scenery—which had been irradiated in lasers and floodlights—but at the scene itself. Resort shows are often an impressive moment of many moving parts in far-flung corners of the world. But Dior’s Fall collection felt like one of the biggest ever made; a deeply comprehensive collection that touched every sense, and right there in front of one of the few surviving wonders of the world.
In that crumbling, sublime wreckage of one lost civilisation, where the ancient Egyptians no doubt had their comedown, Jones put his trust in the universe, and in himself. The good times are far from over.
My husband and I are both loving Emily in Paris on Netflix, and have just finished Season 3 which…