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How Dior championed Scottish culture and heritage at its Perthshire show

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Standing in that same ballroom on Monday, those lucky enough to be invited to Dior’s Cruise 2025 collection saw a showcase of those historic designs. Wandering along the small exhibition, we were presented with a series of beautiful gowns, including a rich pink off-the-shoulder gown in such pristine condition that it could have been created yesterday.

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Dior’s name is synonymous with that timeless elegance. His “New Look” redefined post-war fashion, and Scotland’s influence was clear on his work even then. The gallery assistant points out the fabrics used back in 1955. “Christian Dior was very fond of Scottish textiles,” she says. “Especially tweed, flannel and woollen fabric.” With the house returning to Scotland this week, I was excited to see what creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri would present in 2024 as we headed to the gardens of Drummond Castle.

There is no doubt about it – the Cruise 2025 collection is a love letter to Scottish history, heritage and culture. Representing Scotland through fashion can be a difficult thing – tartan and tweed can easily become twee-looking if not done tastefully. This collection is anything but twee. It is gothic, dark, empowering and emotive.

The National: Photograph: DiorPhotograph: Dior (Image: Dior)

Grazia Chiuri was inspired to bring Dior back to Scotland after reading Clare Hunter’s Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power. The book explores how during her imprisonment, Mary and her associates produced hundreds of pieces of needlework – providing her with a resistant voice in extremely challenging times. One of Mary’s embroidered cushions states “virescit vulnere virtus” (or in English “virtue flourishes by wounding”) alongside a lace-cuffed hand coming down from clouds and holding a sickle, to cut back a dying vine. The symbolism demonstrated Mary’s feelings towards then Queen Elizabeth, and was presented as evidence in a trial of treason against her.

Grazia Chiuri was heavily inspired by Mary’s ability to use craft for political means and express herself despite being silenced by the state. This influence is most obvious in one of the black leather dresses shown in the collection. A puff-skirt kilt dress with lace detailing on the sleeves and collar features embroidered red text in a Renaissance-style font – it reads “nag, hysterical, feisty, bossy”. It was one of the more controversial pieces, and one A-list actress I spoke to said she wouldn’t want to have the word “nag” written across her chest. But with the context of Mary’s empowering needlework, it tells a story of women throughout history using the arts to challenge patriarchal and unjust systems.

The National: Photograph: DiorPhotograph: Dior (Image: Dior)

Scotland’s proud history and women’s power were clear themes throughout the collection. The show opened with a series of designs in a deep-purple tartan, some featuring heavy leather belts, criss-cross gloves and silver jewellery resembling armour. Traditionally feminine silhouettes contrasted with the masculine hardware, giving a metaphorical sense of woman as warrior.

The collection continued with collage-style use of images from Dior’s Gleneagles showcase, further demonstrating the fashion house’s ties with Scotland. The black-and-white photographs appear on coats, T-shirts and tote bags. A red tartan was introduced before a yellow follow-up, with some models sporting a woollen bonnet more traditionally worn by men.

The two stand-out pieces for me were not the velvet gowns or tartan co-ords, but something more understated. Look 46 featured a navy button-up formal coat with an embroidered Lion Rampant in a rich red on the hip. Slightly worn-looking, the coat is wearable for the every day – but the tribute is powerful.

The National: Photograph: DiorPhotograph: Dior (Image: Dior)

The second showstopper was a cream cloth blanket worn as a cape, featuring a large sketched map of Scotland in blue and red. It was unlike any design I’ve seen before. I would have loved to get a close-up look at the intricate embroidered text detailing the place names. The cartographer may lose some points for putting Orkney and Shetland in a box, though.

The National: Photograph: DiorPhotograph: Dior (Image: Dior)

It is to Dior’s credit that they did not simply come to Scotland and present dozens of looks inspired by our history without doing their research. The brand worked with a series of iconic Scottish fashion brands to bring Cruise 2025 to life. Harris Tweed, Johnstons of Elgin, Esk Cashmere and Robert Mackie – which creates the traditional ceremonial headwear for Scottish regiments and pipe bands – were all central to the design process. The presentation itself was steeped in Scottish culture, too – smallpipes player Brìghde Chaimbeul opened the show in a red gown, while several local pipers brought it to a close. The collection was soundtracked by instrumental renditions of Scottish pop classics like Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. Even the after-party DJ stuck on some Hue and Cry.

Seeing a French fashion house with an Italian creative director show such respect and care for Scottish heritage was powerful. It was a reminder of Scotland’s unbreakable ties to Europe, our world-renowned design influence and our many centuries of history and culture. I look forward to seeing celebrities wearing these designs at international events, presenting a little piece of Scotland to the world.

 

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