Chances are you haven’t heard of Maria Grazia Chiuri. Dior’s Artistic Director isn’t exactly a household name, but since taking the helm last year following Raf Simon’s sudden departure, her impact on trends has been profound. Credited with bringing back the ‘J’adior’ slogan (no mean feat after the death of the branded designer motif), she’s brought a new shade of tough streetwear to the label. But little has felt further from the brand’s old identity than the AW17 collection’s accessories; models walked the runway in a whopping 70 looks, each adorned with a £600 Stephen Jones leather beret.
Berets have always had a touch of the twee – school girls, French girls; all onions and a Breton. Even modern ‘French style’ stereotypes leave out the headgear (ballet pumps and stripes may make the cut, but berets have long been considered less Deneuve, more Degas). A 19th century Gallic artist isn’t exactly the look most women have in mind when accessorising, but it’s not unusual for quaint accessories to be subverted by big designer names – next season will see oversized white frilly collars at Miu Miu and pastel pink 50s frocks at Anya Hindmarch. Berets are simply the latest piece to be successfully updated.
And what a success it’s been – everyone from Rihanna to Adwoa Aboah has been spotted in a beret, spawning high street replicas by the boatload. So how has Chiuri succeeded in propelling the piece to the forefront of fashion? It partly comes down to capitalising on a cultural moment: Vogue declared the beret to be “shaping up to be one of Fall 2017’s most ubiquitous items for gals and guys”. The transition from Simon’s ethereal, hyper-feminine designs to the darker, edgier Chiuri creations comes at a time when fashion is drawn more and more to the androgynous, gender non-binary.
The other reason? The fashion world loves something new, but it loves reinvention more. Think of kitten heels, suiting, shoulder pads… resurrecting a seemingly dead and buried trend is a key part of fashion today. The beret, with all its uncool, unfashionable history, was the ultimate rebranding opportunity.
So, the question remains – would you wear one? If you’re reading this thinking Chiuri’s designs are alien, think again – chances are you’ve already bought into what she’s selling. Her influence this season extends to embellished tulles, over-the-knee boots, black and navy pairings and chunky knits teamed with midis. So why not a beret too? Pull it over your ears and wear with loose tousled waves – maybe Degas had it right after all.