PARIS, FRANCE: Up until about five years ago—for all but a few Italian art critics in the know—Isabella Ducrot was largely unknown. The now-93-year-old Naples-born visual artist was ‘discovered’ by German-based gallerist Gisela Capitain who catapulted her onto the international art scene with a series of solo exhibitions in Cologne, Berlin, Stockholm, and London.
“Who would have thought that at my age life could hold such surprises?” Ducrot told World Of Interiors in 2023. (You can view the artist’s extraordinary apartment in Rome, a home she shared with her husband of 60 years, here.)
Overnight—and in her ninth decade of life—Ducrot revealed her biggest exhibition yet: the Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2024 show.
Yes, inside the storied 18th century Musée Rodin–a short walk across the Seine from Dior’s usual runway at Jardin des Tuileries—Ducrot inspired a new veneration for textiles and tactility at the French house’s seasonal Haute Couture offering.
As guests arrived, 23 five-metre high dresses were arranged on the walls of the room. Each were abstract silhouettes of robes worn by Ottoman sultans, a subject studied by Ducrot who was always interested in how the garments exaggerated the size of the body as a means of expressing power.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, who has spent her career riffing on the relationship between fashion and power, took this notion and tracked down pieces within Dior’s haute couture archives which she felt embodied these certain aura-like qualities and dimensions. One stood out.
“The La Cigale dress—designed by Christian Dior for Autumn/Winter 1952—evokes the sacredness of the atelier through its sculptural construction and moiré fabric, thus becoming the starting point for a theory that recontextualises couture,” read the show notes. “A fragile boundary between art and life.”
The La Cigale dress was a masterpiece of construction and execution—it was heavy and comprised of a sleeved bodice with a skirt that cantilevered at the hipbone. But it was the moiré fabric—a textile with a wavy/watered down appearance—that made it famous. And on Chiuri’s haute couture Spring/Summer 2024 runway overnight, aptly titled Big Aura, more and more pieces borrowed the technique in a brilliant display of the warp of cloth: coats with imposing collars, wide skirts revealing exaggerated cut-outs, overlapping layers, pants and jackets.
In recreating the full skirts, Chiuri confesses to taking out all the padding that Monsieur Dior would used in the hips.
“It doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “Women’s lives are different now, the world is different now. Even the temperature of the world is different now.”
Dior’s Haute Couture history will soon be in the spotlight once more when The New Look—a biographical drama series which explores how Christian Dior and his contemporaries navigated the horrors of World War II and launched modern fashion—arrives on Apple TV+ next month.
It’s a time Ducrot lived through. And what an incredible woman to tap to illustrate the delicate dance between fashion and power in an ever-changing world. By all accounts, she has a vibrant, alluring aura around her, as well.
This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.