Once Upon a Time, There Was Frida Kahlo: Dior Cruise 2024 and the French-Style Fridamania

“At the time in Mexico, what was fashionable was to look French.” Reminisced of famed Mexican actress Salma Hayek. Portraying the iconic 20th-century artist Frida Kahlo in the acclaimed film Frida (2002), for which she received an Oscar nomination, Hayek reflected during an interview with The Washington Post, “When everybody was trying to dress like that, Frida did what was unimaginable.”

Dior, an emblem of French elegance, has paradoxically nurtured a deep affinity for the vibrant culture of Mexico, a country in the heart of North America. Continuing the legacy of the Dior Cruise 2019 collection, which celebrated Mexican female riders, Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative mastermind behind Dior’s women’s collections, turned to Frida Kahlo’s artistic oeuvre for inspiration. The 2024 Early Spring Cruise Collection, unveiled in May at Kahlo’s alma mater, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, seamlessly wove Frida’s penchant for vivid colours and striking contrasts into the fabric of its designs. The collection is a sartorial ode to Kahlo’s indomitable spirit and quest for freedom, with motifs of butterflies and moths – symbols of liberation and transformation – intricately embroidered and laced into the timeless TOILE DE JOUY patterns, a Dior hallmark.

This season’s collection draws its sartorial inspiration from a photograph of Frida Kahlo, one that shattered gender norms. At 19, Kahlo boldly adopted men’s three-piece suits, merging avant-garde style with a nuanced elevation of femininity, a societal rarity of her times.

Furthermore, Dior’s latest offerings encapsulate a blend of strength and delicacy. The collection reimagines the traditional Mexican huipil, marrying structured bodices with flowing, layered skirts. Traditional Mexican equestrian boots, reinterpreted with ornate carvings, complement this aesthetic. Collaborating with local artisans, the collection infuses the rich tapestry of Mexican embroidery, imbuing each piece with a distinct ethnic charm.

“The Two Fridas” (1939), Frida Kahlo’s painting
The Dior Cruise 2024 collection pays tribute to “The Two Fridas” (1939)

Kahlo’s status as a muse in the fashion world is undisputed. Dior joins the ranks of Jean Paul Gaultier, who in his 1998 spring show, centred a collection around Kahlo, and Dolce & Gabbana, who honoured her in their 2018 Alta Moda collection. The enduring question remains: what cements this Mexican painter as an eternal muse?

I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best.

 Frida Kahlo

This introspection is evident in her signature style – the bold unibrow, the moustache on her upper lip, the Tehuana hairstyle adorned with a floral headband, and the flamboyant Mexican Circle skirt. She defied traditional aesthetics, embodying an androgynous allure. A bisexual and a pioneer of queer identity in the last century, her fluidity in gender expression was groundbreaking. Her tumultuous marriage with Diego Rivera, marked by mutual infidelities, added layers to her complex persona.

Frida Kahlo, synonymous with resilience in the face of suffering. Her life, marked by polio at six and a devastating bus accident at 18, leading to over 30 surgeries and an eventual leg amputation, is a testament to her fortitude. These trials, along with experiences of abortion, miscarriage, and infertility, became the wellspring of her artistic genius. Bedridden, she turned to self-portraiture, producing 55 introspective pieces over 28 years, a poignant narrative of her battle with physical and emotional pain.

Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly?

Frida Kahlo

In Frida, life and art are inextricably intertwined. Through her art and fashion, she navigated political ideologies, a fractured marriage, and her physical disabilities. Dior’s recent foray into short films explores how Frida’s sartorial choices were a canvas for her feminist identity. “We are the only animals that wear clothes, which is what characterises us.” Said Maria Grazia Chiuri. On the 29th of November, Dior released Dior Metamorphosis, a documentary preview delving into the behind-the-scenes of the Cruise collection, with Frida’s story as its genesis. Chiuri perceives Frida as a butterfly, undergoing metamorphosis, her life and work a testament to profound transformation.

Seventy years posthumously, Kahlo remains a beacon in the fashion world. In wearing Dior, one doesn’t merely don traditional huipil or tehuana attire, it’s an embodiment of Fridamania, a celebration of Kahlo’s enduring spirit in the tapestry of modern fashion.

Photo source: Fashion History Timeline、Fashion United、Metal Magazine、my.meural

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