...Dior’s collection at its core was a symbol of social rebellion by the designer.
The Contemporary Art Modern Project presents Not Dior’s New “Look” II, the awaited continuation to a show that at its core celebrates fashion history represented by strong characters that demand attention, but don’t give it away.
Paris, 10 a.m., 1947. The House of Christian Dior presents its first ever collection, a collection that would change fashion history forever. From 30 Avenue Montaigne to the world, the initially titled Corolle collection featured rounded shoulders, full skirts, a cinched waist, and padded hips, an unorthodox silhouette for the times, a silhouette that accentuated femininity rather than functionality. Later labeled the New Look by the American press, Dior’s collection at its core was a symbol of social rebellion by the designer. During the post-war period, fashion was not a focus, female fashion was all about practicality and monotony, made to serve a purpose and nothing else, resulting in boxy, masculine shapes, devoid of any grace. By contrast, Dior’s New Look encouraged female self-expression, it represented an ownership of personal identity and femininity.
Featuring artists Elly Azizian, Emma Coyle, Isher Dhiman, Vicky Martin, Fares Micue, and Sonya Revell & Queef Latina, Not Dior’s New “Look” II explores the concept of fashion as a source of empowerment. No matter who you are, no matter where you go, fashion maintains a strong presence in the functionings of our society. At a macro-level, it organizes demographics, defines nations, cultures, subcultures, organizations, the list goes on. At a micro-level, it represents individuals, serving as the most immediate form of self-expression for anyone to allow others a glimpse into who they are. Cambridge dictionary defines ‘empowerment’ as “the process of gaining freedom and power to do what you want or to control what happens to you;” this is to say that empowerment can take on many forms, and manifest differently per individual basis. Freedom, power, control, ownership… all express something different to each of us. We all need one more than another, we all have one more than another, but they all similarly serve as a source of strength and protection, akin to an armor that helps us navigate through an often daunting world. And what is fashion if not an armor? An armor that prevents us from engaging life completely unexposed. An armor that can be a source of freedom to be true to yourself, of power to face the world, of control over your decisions, of ownership over your body and what goes on it. Just as Christian Dior sought to empower a post-wartime woman through his New Look, driven by ideals of personal identity and self-expression, fashion to this day empowers all individuals that choose to engage with it, and irrefutably affects those who do not just the same.
Irish-born artist Emma Coyle, who pioneered the first iteration of this exhibition opens the show with her proud, feminine, and assertive woman, all intermixed to create a visual statement of strength and femalehood. Employing the style of traditional pop art to represent contemporary fashion photography with a vintage twist, the artist takes inspiration from modern fashion magazine photoshoots, which she recreates as delicately crafted colorful pop compositions. Her latest work features confident women of color who, as is on brand for Coyle and now a staple of the Not Dior’s New Look series, rarely focus on the viewer, but instead focus on themselves. Coyle’s work is all about her woman and everything she represents, liberating her from becoming a mere object of desire, but instead a statement of resilience.
Isher Dhiman creates dynamic compositions through a variety of media, including charcoal, watercolor, and ink. The British-born artist is heavily inspired by the original masters of Fashion Art from the 40s and 50s, using this inspiration to capture iconic moments from the fashion industry, an inspiration that reflects on her use of brushstrokes, pops of color, and the overall gestural nature of her work. Her subject is one who is in sync with the nuances of fashion, one who exudes elegance and is in control of themselves. Dhiman’s work is a true statement on the symbiotic relationship that exists between fashion and art, one that has always and will always be present, and one that in the hands of the right creative mind can extrude something worthy of admiration.
Elly Azizian is an American artist whose work displays an emphasis on the effectiveness of clean lines and a multi-faceted collage and mixed media approach to fashion illustration. With a highly stylized approach to her work, she creates pieces that are both figurative and slightly abstract in nature. The artist’s collage application on traditional fashion sketching elevates her compositions to a realm beyond fashion illustration, resulting in a visual feast of color, form, and texture within a fashion envelope. On her Don’t Touch your Face series, Azizian presents the viewer with rebellious characters that challenge social norms, exuding a strong sense of ownership while doing so. The act of touching one’s face serves as a metaphor for challenging the status quo, in a society where such a practice is currently discouraged; the empowerment to defy social rules elevating the meaning of what fashion is all about.
Canarian artist Fares Micue brings her enigmatic self-portraits into the Not Dior’s New Look series. Her work is both highly personal and relatable, speaking of her own identity, struggles, and experiences as a human being while sending a message of superation, empowerment, and hope. Deeply conceptual in nature, her pieces are ever full of symbolism; Micue is very intentional about every element within her compositions, carefully crafting her ideas to reflect the message she intends to convey. Her images, often found in contrast against a simple background, are intended to reflect entire narratives within a single frame, a silent telling of the artist’s personal story.
American photographer Sonya Revell teams up with Miami drag royalty Queef Latina to create a series of photographic works that exemplify fashion’s historical condition as a source of freedom and self-expression. Revell creates imagery that emerges from her delightful daydreams of dazzling candy colors and connects closely with complex and compelling characters. And as far as compelling characters go, Queef Latina stands tall. A pioneer of the Miami drag scene, known for their feminine vintage aesthetic which they define as “a polished housewife persona,” they exude ownership of her personal identity on the works taken by Revell, whose eye for color and narrative conceive compositions that are as immersive as her subject is striking.
To close the show, Not Dior New “Look” ’s second pioneer, British- born photographer Vicky Martin, returns with a further glimpse into her Not in Kansas series. Featuring scenarios that blur the boundaries between fantasy and truth, Martin’s subject, inspired by Dorothy from Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz, battles the fear of isolation while remaining a confident and bold woman. A woman who exudes strength, independence, determination, but is also vulnerable to the elements around her. A woman facing the world for the first time, exposed to the realities that surround society and her role within it. A woman empowered by every step she takes, determined to find her place in the world, representing all that this show is about.
On this second edition of The Contemporary Art Modern Project's most fashion-conscious show to date, our artists remind us thatthe path towards empowerment—empowerment through fashion, empowerment that takes on many forms—is one that doesn't havea set way, but one of understanding with the self. Fashion is but an inner monologue brought to life in the shape of an externalexpression that comforts and empowers the self. An empowerment that differs individual per individual, based on dreams, based onhopes, based on fears, based on insecurities. This inner dialogue is one of understanding with oneself, one's need, one's wants, andthat is where the true power of fashion lies—the power to change the perception of others and your perception of yourself, that which Christian Dior set out to demonstrate on February 12, 1947 in 30 Avenue Montaigne... there will never be another New Look, but it'snot about what it was, but about what it taught us.