Since her appointment as the first female Artistic Director of Christian Dior in July 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri has been writing a new chapter in the storied house’s history and using it as a platform for political ends. For her, Dior is not about activism but femininity and female empowerment. The “We Should All Be Feminist” T-shirts, inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s political essay, from her debut spring 2017 collection, have gone down in fashion history, and under her watch the slogan has become as much of a Dior trope as the full skirt is.
“The Dior woman can be feminine in strong way,” Chiuri told the Condé Nast International Luxury conference. “I want to show [the women] behind my job. I am not alone – in the atelier and in the archives, there are many women that work in the house. It’s important to show what’s inside.”
Her extensive research into the Dior archive means she feels as if she knows Christian Dior. “Sometimes I think the customer has an idea of Christian Dior that is a mix of different designers, but if you only see Christian Dior’s work it is very precise.” Her Dior leads straight back to him because he is the founder and very DNA of the brand. “He was immediately an international brand – with parfum! It was unbelievable for the time!”
What is her reality at Dior like? How does she handle the demands of working on couture, ready-to-wear, resort and cruise, accessories, and also overseeing the advertising and marketing direction? “I work very hard,” she laughed. “If you want the shows, the shop windows and the campaigns to have the same language then you have to work hard. It’s important for the customer to see the same message… and experience the same emotion. It’s not possible for me to make [fashion] in any other way.”
On being an Italian in a French atelier, where many of the petites-mains don’t speak the same language as her, she enthused: “The language of fashion is more important than English, French or Italian. We are an international brand. We put together our passion in what we do, so language is not important.”
Connecting with the next generation of Dior customers has come, in part, through the couture part of the maison. “People believe couture is only expensive, but it’s about tradition,” she elaborated. “There’s a new generation that want to discover craftsmanship because they really want the human touch.”
Her daughter, who was in the audience, is crucial to her creative process, because she acts as her mother’s mirror. “Sometimes we close ourselves in our work, and it’s important to have another point of view. She is the future. When I was the same age I didn’t have all the information she has.”
Chiuri’s strong connection with the arts is linked to this connection with youth. “It’s not easy for a girl in Italy to think, ‘I want to become a Caravaggio’ – we have many stereotypes in our minds! I hope that a next generation can become a Caravaggio!” And with Chiuri’s influence, they will have the power of Dior behind them.
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit www.cniluxury.com/2018