THE INTERVIEW | Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri

Dio(r)evolution. The next step for the Dior woman starts with this mantra. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut forges a new look based on three fundamental elements: couture, pop and sport. A nod to Monsieur Dior and the other great designers who over the years have built the image of this iconic brand.  “I thought about being a woman who, for the first time, has this opportunity and who must speak to modern women” explained Chiuri marking an important milestone, being the first woman to be called to the LVMH owned maison. 

 

 

 

Stefano Roncato: How did you approach this adventure?

Maria Grazia Chiuri: Like giving a point of view on the brand. If you only look at Monsieur Dior this company would close in ten years, as many as he ran it for. There are many other designers, great designers who are part of the Dior legacy because they helped to build it. From Marc Bohan who is less well known to Yves Saint Laurent and Gianfranco Ferré. For my generation John Galliano was a strong reference point as well as Raf Simons, and also Hedi Slimane. I thought about myself in the context of this heritage, in a much more open way than what came before me. Not just Mr Dior who is obviously the matriarch. I saw this challenge like a curator might when they come across a large collection of historic paintings. 

SR: This is the first time a female figure is in charge at Dior…

MGC: I thought about being a woman who has this type of opportunity for the first time. Who has to speak to modern women from her own point of view and with what she links women today expect from a brand like Dior. It is a house, in my opinion, that for certain women is off limits and not open enough. Today, women aren’t the same from morning to night. They don’t just want to get dressed, it’s about whether the clothes allow them to express themselves and how they make them feel in various situations. For this reason, the collection is much more articulate with more styles, a full wardrobe of pieces because that is the way contemporary women dress. 

SR: What codes and signs did you reference?

MGC: These were essential, bearing in mind that Monsieur Dior was obsessed with signs, especially cards. The more I read about him, the more I realise that signs shaped his career. Luck. He always carried lucky charms in his pocket. He opened the store in Avenue Montaigne because that’s where he found a star which had fallen off a horse. The number 8 because it is infinite. Perhaps with a more cultured eye as he was friends with a lot of artists.  For example, the decision to show at the Rodin museum is linked to the fact that Jean Cocteau lived there for a period and they were very close. 

SR: You worked for many years in a team with Pierpaolo Piccioli, who stayed at Valentino…what’s it like being on your own?

MGC: This is a job where you work a lot. You’re always rushing and the workload is always the same. I worked with a whole team, not only with Pierpaolo. Here the team is huge and international, it’s a big challenge. 

SR: What was it like going into the archives?

MGC: I kind of went into shock. The archives are kept beautifully, but they’re enormous, and everything is dispersed. I don’t believe that I have seen everything, just a little part of the company which is huge. Much bigger than one might think from the outside. On my first day I had to ask where my office was because I couldn't find it. As a joke, I call it Diorland. It takes time to get to know the place. I saw a part of the archive, a selection, the part which interested me. To see it all would be impossible, I would come out after a month….

SR: A month to prepare for the show?

MGC: Five weeks. 

SR: What inspired the collection?

MGC: I found a dress called Roma and I recreated it, making it shorter or the Moulin Rouge pleats, very French, very beautiful. Some of the pieces in the archive are very constructed and well thought out. I tried to lighten up my references by using georgette and more contemporary materials. Overall the collection has a very precise inspiration, L’innocente by Luchino Visconti and fencing outfits. The white jacket and black trousers for me represent a new look, contemporary and modern. There is no gender in uniform or sport. As the creative direction for womenswear, I have a son and a daughter, my ambitions for both are equal. This applies to everything. In sport and in uniforms there is no distinction, it was the right reference point for the first collection. 

SR: The show plays with subtle references…

MGC: With denim, using symbols from Dior homme. When you see jeans with stitching on the pockets (created by Slimane) you know they are a pair of Dior jeans. I don’t think it’s smart to ignore that. The bee, as well as being a Napoleonic symbol, was also used by Monsieur Dior and Slimane on shirts. The star cut out, another strong symbol, or J’adore Dior written by Galliano, I don’t see why that can’t be part of the heritage and so it became J’aDior. 

SR: Pop?

MGC: Dior said that fashion is revolution and evolution. So a T-Shirt was born. It’s all a mix between couture, sport and pop. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of “We Should All Be Feminists" came to the show as a surprise. I had written to her. I like how she talks about these topics with a light heartedness. Fashion is a wish, a dream but it also has to be ironic. 

SR: Do you see yourself as a feminist?

MGC: Yes absolutely. My mother was a feminist, I remember in the 70’s everything she achieved she believed was her right. I don’t think anyone would have any doubt about the value of equality. I believe that for years we have just discussed the pay gap but now is the moment to talk about tolerance and equal opportunities. 

SR: One teaching?

MGC: In Valentina Vezzali’s book she says: in the fencer you have an adversary and in life we face adversity. We need to be ready to take them on. In this the fencer uses both their heart and their head. In life women often use their hearts more than their heads. You have to find a balance, and you need courage. I am reading “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I think that both women and men should think about what they really want. Sometimes education and family have an impact. Above all, I a parent trying to communicate my fears for my children but learning not to. I have to learn, the scooter….no. You have to let them make mistakes in order to help them understand what they want and to be happy.

SR: The biggest adversary?

MGC: Myself.

 

By Stefano Roncato - MFF Magazine for Fashion
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