Dior’s new dy­namo

Maria Grazia Chi­uri, the new artis­tic di­rec­tor of the sto­ried house of Dior, drew from the great names who shaped its past and the girl-power style of her daugh­ter, Rachele. Get to know the la­bel’s first fe­male cre­ative di­rec­tor, here.

Glamour (South Africa) - - Sex -

when Maria Grazia Chi­uri took up her po­si­tion as artis­tic di­rec­tor at Dior, the panda-eyed perox­ide blonde had just a few weeks to de­sign a new col­lec­tion for one of the world’s most watched, loved and fa­mous fash­ion brands. But even with the de­mands of fabric re­search, fit­tings, and model cast­ings – not to men­tion set­ting the tone for a new vi­sion at the house – she firmly re­sisted sug­ges­tions of post­pon­ing the show­ing un­til Novem­ber. She in­sisted on trav­el­ling her­self to the fac­to­ries in Florence, Italy, that pro­duce many of Dior’s ac­ces­sories pro­to­types, in­stead of dis­patch­ing her min­ions. She swiftly found her­self a light-flooded Paris apart­ment with views of the Lux­em­bourg Gar­dens. And, in­stead of tak­ing a limo to work, as most in her po­si­tion would do, she rel­ished the half-hour walk ev­ery morn­ing.

“This kind of pres­sure could be dan­ger­ous if you don’t main­tain bal­ance,” she says firmly. “I don’t like to work at night. I pre­fer to go out to din­ner, to see friends. I put a lot of pas­sion into this job, but I want to main­tain con­trol of my life.”

And so, she re­turns to Rome to spend week­ends with her hus­band, Paolo Regini, and their son, Ni­colo. And her daugh­ter, Rachele, who is study­ing art in Lon­don, reg­u­larly makes the Eurostar com­mute to see her mom.

At Dior head­quar­ters, Maria Grazia has her of­fice in one build­ing and her de­sign stu­dio around the cor­ner, in another build­ing with rooftop ter­races planted with le­mon trees and roses.

“The brand is so huge,” she says. “There are so many build­ings. It’s a lit­tle vil­lage!”

It is a cor­po­rate world away from the fam­ily cul­ture at Fendi – then dom­i­nated by the five for­mi­da­ble Fendi sis­ters – where Maria Grazia worked for 10 years af­ter study­ing fash­ion in Rome. And, she says, Valentino, where she and her long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor Pier­paolo Pic­ci­oli sub­se­quently worked was “another fam­ily in a way”.

In 2008, fol­low­ing Valentino Gar­a­vani’s re­tire­ment and the brief ten­ure of Alessandra Facchinetti, Maria Grazia and Pier­paolo were ap­pointed co-cre­ative di­rec­tors and they swiftly cre­ated a com­pelling, ethe­real im­age for the brand, along with a strong ac­ces­sories base – a strat­egy that re- es­tab­lished Valentino as a global in­flu­encer.

“Hon­estly, I never thought in my life that I could move from Valentino to Dior, but when they ap­proached me, I said, ‘ I’m 50. If I don’t test my­self now, when do I?’” she re­calls.

And, just as she did at Valentino, she delved into Dior’s his­tory to ex­tract her own vi­sion.

“If you think only about Mon­sieur Dior, I think you have lost your heritage,” she says, not­ing that Chris­tian Dior him­self was at the helm of the com­pany he cre­ated for only 10 years. (Chris­tian died of a heart at­tack in 1957, af­ter which the bril­liant, frag­ile 21-year- old Yves Mathieu-saint-lau­rent as­sumed direc­tion of the house, fol­lowed by a roll call of in­flu­en­tial tal­ents.) “We have to un­der­stand that it’s pos­si­ble to use the past in a mod­ern way for mod­ern women.”

With this aim in mind, she sam­pled el­e­ments from all the past Dior de­sign­ers: the elab­o­rate un­der­pin­nings of Chris­tian Dior’s 1954 Moulin Rouge dress, the flare of Saint Lau­rent’s 1958 Roma dress, the pleats of Marc Bo­han’s ’ 70s

“I love fash­ion and I know what I like for my­self. But I never think about my­self, hon­estly.” – Maria Grazia Chi­uri

retro, the white blouses that were Gian­franco Ferré’s sig­na­ture, the bee mo­tif of Hedi Sli­mane, and John Gal­liano’s street-smart J’adore Dior T-shirt – and mar­ried them to the idea of his­toric fenc­ing uni­forms. The sym­bol­ism was clear: “You have to fight for what you want in life,” she says. “But in fenc­ing, you don’t kill the per­son – you touch the heart.”

She is styling even fan­ci­ful ball­gown skirts in a con­tem­po­rary, breezy way that owes a debt to looks her daugh­ter Rachele puts to­gether.

“Of course Rachele is my muse,” she says. “I love fash­ion and I know what I like for my­self. But I never think about my­self, hon­estly.”

When she first wanted to dress her daugh­ter in the ro­man­tic, pretty clothes that be­came her call­ing card at Valentino, Rachele com­plained that she was be­ing treated like a dress-up doll.

“You have to lis­ten to what they re­ally want,” says Maria Grazia, who promptly switched her fo­cus from froth to Goth. “Some­times the kids teach the mother.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence helped her un­der­stand Dior cus­tomers, who span vast di­vides. “Women are faceted, with dif­fer­ent moods, and we love the idea of a new gen­er­a­tion of Dior girls who ex­press them­selves freely by mix­ing dif­fer­ent el­e­ments.”

The fam­ily’s hol­i­days al­ways in­volve mother-and-daugh­ter fash­ion for­ag­ing. They re­cently hit the Mar­rakesh souk (the em­broi­dered cardi­gan jack­ets that Rachele found there are her new wardrobe sta­ples), went gau­cho with pon­chos and rid­ing boots in Buenos Aires and in­vested in vin­tage ki­monos in Ja­pan.

Paolo – a shirt­maker in Rome – watches this from an amused dis­tance. “He’s a very el­e­gant man,” Rachele says. “I’ve never seen him wear­ing a T-shirt in his life. And my brother only wears blue, grey and white; he’s not very into fash­ion.”

But Rachele rel­ishes her mother’s fash­ion life. “I’m very proud of what she does,” she says. “She’s a great ex­am­ple and in­spi­ra­tion – as a woman with a ca­reer and as a mother. Ev­ery woman should have the right to do both, and I’m so grate­ful to her for teach­ing me that.”

“We have a strong re­la­tion­ship,” Maria Grazia says, “and Rachele keeps me young. My chil­dren have a dif­fer­ent point of view. They pose new ques­tions, and you have to find new an­swers.”

At Dior, those an­swers had to be found fast. She laugh­ingly ad­mits that her ten­u­ous French and quirky English make com­mu­ni­ca­tion eas­ier. “I haven’t been taught words to be po­lite. No. Yes. In. Out!”

To­day, she has back-to-back meet­ings, first with event de­signer Alexan­dre de Be­tak to dis­cuss the run­way set, then with sound de­signer Michel Gaubert. In be­tween are meet­ings to dis­cuss minu­tiae such as the pa­per for the look­books, the font for the show in­vi­ta­tions, and the de­tails of the show­room – from the man­nequins to the dis­play mod­ules. “I’m ob­sessed with vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing,” she says.

On the global level, she is also re­think­ing the Dior bou­tiques, which she finds cold and old-fash­ioned. “We have to move this brand into the fu­ture,” she says, “and many peo­ple meet the brand in the store. They should un­der­stand im­me­di­ately that some­thing changed.”

Rachele, mean­while, is liv­ing her own fash­ion fairy tale. The day af­ter the show, she was al­ready wear­ing the new Dior satchel purse slung across her Moroc­can jacket, and she is cov­et­ing the leather fenc­ing jacket shown on the run­way. “It was hard some­times hav­ing a mother who does such a tough job,” she con­fides. “But it has its ad­van­tages as well!”

“You have to fight for what you want in life.” – Maria Grazia Chi­uri

Maria Grazia Chi­uri with daugh­ter Rachele Regini

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