Does Dior’s Statement T-Shirt Really Mean What It Says?


Does Dior’s Statement T-Shirt Really Mean What It Says?

dior-sasha-statement-lede Demarolle Drop Cap Based on the recently concluded fashion month, art history majors would be glad they did their readings. The Creative Director of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, began her lofty mission for a feminist message in her debut collection for the Dior Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear collection, by introducing the now proliferated and notorious “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt. These meditations on female power have not only brought a seemingly intellectual aureole to the designer, but also an increase in revenue with the growing impact of digital influencers.

In turn this helped the knockoff retailers online because the t-shirt is so easy to reproduce (you can get it for as low as $10). But for the t-shirts of the Spring 2018 show, the manifesto chosen was an even more intellectually challenging question, “Why There Have Been No Great Women Artists?”. The title was taken from a groundbreaking essay by famous feminist writer, art historian Linda Nochlin. When the essay was first published in 1971, it was widely discussed as a pioneer declaration of feminist theories and art criticism, and now it is on the reading list of many modern art courses on college campuses.

Put into the context of a fashion show, it’s only natural for the liberal fashion audience to accept the strange and offensive. But when we look at the article itself, Nochlin critiques the art world and women’s artistic status in it, focusing on the challenges women face when creating and presenting their work in the field. Her question on gender inequality, elitism and artistic standard in the aesthetic realm can still prompt us to reflect on today’s cultural, capital and political context. The answer to the question, she goes on, is not an actual calculation on the lack of female talents and artistic value, but a failure to understand the imbalance of institutional power that determines who is considered a “great” artist and what work is “great”. Nochlin writes “It is when one really starts thinking about the implications of ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ that one begins to realize to what extent our consciousness of how things are in the world has been conditioned–and often falsified–by the way the most important questions are posed”.


As thrilled as we are about seeing Sasha Pivovarova coming back down the runway, there is no doubt that her debut outfit does not live up to Nochlin’s call for women to be “courageous enough to take the necessary risk, the leap into the unknown”. A Breton-striped shirt and wide leg jeans, a combination you could easily create with countless options from Zara and Uniqlo. We see Chiuri’s fervent attempt to make this traditional French luxury house accessible and “cool” to millennials. But she neglects the fact that fashion lovers among millennials formed their first impression of Dior from John Galliano’s flirty pastel cocktail suits, teetering stilettos and theatric gowns parading down the runway, and many of us fell in love with the brand because of the dramatic extravagance that screams high fashion and art to our faces. Instead, Chiuri’s girls walked in low block-heeled Mary Janes or black mesh knee-boots, wearing everything from patchwork jeans to leather pantsuits, from sparkly glitter mini chemises and to an excessive amount of sheer dresses (maybe an after effect of spending too much time in Valentino?). Let’s be clear: there is nothing particularly democratic or feminist or millennial in looking cheap.

Given that Nochlin’s essay encourages readers to destroy the false consciousness in institutional and intellectual norms, and more importantly, to take part in the creation of institutions in which true greatness is a challenge open to anyone, Dior may have presented a failed example of the effort this season by sacrificing quality design. Slogans are not enough, and if the fashion house truly wants to capture the millennial frenzy, this generation demands actions. Having a designer high up in the fashion hierarchy campaigning for female empowerment is great, but the concern about popular culture and fashion co-opting the feminist context to enslave the consumers with materialism is not groundless. Here is hoping the brand will utilize its platform to take concrete initiatives in supporting women while preserving the unique Dior charm in sophisticated, delicate, yet innovative design.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock and IOL.



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