Maria Grazia Chiuri has always been captivated by romance, whether it is romantic love or classical literary romance, as defined by a deep, overwhelming yearning that you feel in your core. At Valentino, and now at Dior, her exquisite gowns evoke stories of grand devotion and desire — a motif she took into the magical and queer realm for her Spring 2021 Haute Couture collection film.
The collection, like most over the year, was presented virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. Luckily for us, Chiuri has used this opportunity to craft a tale inspired by the traditional tarot’s 22 Major Arcana card suite. In 1910, poet and occultist Arthur Edward Waite collaborated with artist Pamela Colman Smith to design the Rider-Waite tarot, the most widely-used deck among practitioners. Smith’s images were based on Waite’s mystical schematics, and her renditions of cards such as the High Priestess, Death, and The Lovers have become imbued with today’s pop culture witchy fascination.
Chiuri again worked with director Matteo Garrone on a short film to contextualize the collection. “We decided to film a story about this girl who goes inside a castle. It’s a labyrinth which represents an interior trip. When she meets each of (the tarot) figures, she has to reach a decision about her life,” she told Vogue. “And on the other hand, she meets aspects of her own personality and learns not to be scared of the future.”
Waite intended for the Major Arcana to represent that journey. His tarot begins with card 0, The Fool, who is pictured jovially playing an instrument dangerously near a precipice. It is meant to symbolize the beginning of a new path, and how each chapter of our lives are filled with danger and joy. The Fool reminds us to begin our journeys with open eyes — a moment hauntingly brought to life as the girl (played by Agnese Claisse) with tender pink hair enters the castle.
She’s not alone. Inside, she meets the personifications of the Fool, Justice, the Moon, and more. The Devil is symbolized by horned temptresses who block her path, signifying the card’s traditional meaning of self-destruction and maladaptive habits. The details of Death are also lovingly reproduced through Dior’s accessories — a delicate chainmail mask, skeletal jewelry, and even Grim Reaper’s hood is made to feel consoling as it unzips the girl’s floral gown and invites her to step into a hot bath.
Another character also traces through the castle, meeting the Arcana archetypes. This girl is an androgynous version of the pink-haired girl; she has a dark pixie cut and wears an exquisitely-tailored suit as she joins the Star and Temperance through the labyrinth. The two versions of the girl meet in the bath and begin caressing and kissing one another, becoming the Lovers.
Though the implication is that the two girls are the same person, it can’t help but be contextualized through queer culture. The stylistic interpretations of feminine and masculine coding are so pronounced, but they brought together by shared inquisitiveness, a shared journey, and ultimately, shared loved and passion. It’s a story that demands more representation in high fashion. Like the Fool, maybe this is just a first step into a wider world. You can watch the video below.