An Ode to Puglia: How Dior’s Cruise Show Celebrates Italian Craftsmanship

Dior broke from the pack, presenting a Cruise 2021 collection in the small town of Lecce in Puglia, southern Italy. It is the place that Maria Grazia Chiuri had always planned the hold the show – she herself is Italian, and has long been inspired by the country’s craftmanship – and perhaps the only difference was the lack of physical attendees, who, instead of being flown in from across the world for the evening, would have to watch from their computer screens at home (there was, however, an intrigued audience of locals – and a few devoted clients – who watched the show unfold from the balconies around the main square).

The rest, though, was as you might expect from a cruise extravaganza – there was a dazzling set by feminist artist Marinella Senatore, in collaboration with Puglia-based light designers Fratelli Paris, where 30,000 coloured bulbs evoked the luminaire of local folk festivals and contained a number of the artist’s slogans; a rousing score by the Italian composer Paolo Buonvino, who conducted an 18-strong orchestra from Rome, alongside 21 local musicians; a performance by Italian rock musician Giuliano Sangiorgi, folk dancers, and, of course, a vast 90-look collection worn by a slew of the world’s top models.

It amounted to tentative proof that the transporting spectacle of cruise shows past could translate to our current era of social distancing and travel restrictions – estimates from the house said that about 20 million people worldwide would tune in for the broadcast. But Chiuri – despite clear indications that Dior will retain its traditional calendar when restrictions are lifted – noted that this was not simply a case of a show for a show’s sake. Like previous collections, the emotion behind her creative decisions are deeply felt: Puglia is the birthplace of her father and, long before coronavirus began, she was collaborating with artisans in Lecce in order for the collection to pay ode to the area’s distinct culture of craft. So within the collection there were numerous collaborations: with Le Costantine Foundation, which aims to preserve centuries-old textile arts in Puglia; with lace embroiderer Marilena Sparasci; weavers Tessitura Calabrese, and more.

Instead, the show became about support and celebration: “It was essential for Dior to continue these collaborations, to support and showcase the virtuosity of these artisans and artists more than ever,” the house said in a statement. “So that the beauty of their gestures, emotion and poetry may endure.” Chiuri – who has long collaborated with women artists and creators – also noted that this was a feminist issue in itself; most of those who undertake this type of craft have traditionally been women within a domestic space, she wanted to elevate them to the heights of those who work within the atelier in Paris.