MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI

Maria Grazia Chiuri has been shak­ing up the style rules since she took the helm at Dior two years ago. SHEENA KHEMANEY talks to the de­signer about haute cou­ture and, yes, ca­sual wear

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IT WAS BIG NEWS in July 2016 when Ital­ian de­signer Maria Grazia Chiuri took on the role of artis­tic direc­tor for Dior’s women’s col­lec­tions. The first wo­man to head the sto­ried fash­ion house’s creative depart­ment has since won over a new gen­er­a­tion of so­cial-me­dia-savvy cus­tomers (along with the brand’s ex­ist­ing so­phis­ti­cated clien­tele) with time­less de­signs and her sig­na­ture mas­cu­line-meets-fem­i­nine aes­thetic.

For her lat­est show – haute cou­ture au­tumn/ win­ter 2018 – Chiuri brought us back to the Musée Rodin in Paris. The set, a large box­like space on the grounds, was de­signed to re­sem­ble a haute-cou­ture ate­lier and fea­tured a floor-to-ceil­ing dis­play of plain white gar­ments from Dior’s archives adorn­ing the walls. Most lux­ury brands pull out all the stops to show­case their elab­o­rate cou­ture cre­ations, but Chiuri sur­prised show-go­ers with an ar­ray of day-tonight en­sem­bles that ex­uded ef­fort­less Parisian el­e­gance. The un­der­stated looks and toned­down colour pal­ette (a mid­night blue draped silk crêpe cady day dress and a dull gold lamé Bar suit come to mind) drew all the at­ten­tion to the crafts­man­ship – and that’s pre­cisely what Chiuri wanted. TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAT­EST HAUTE COU­TURE COL­LEC­TION. I tried to make a col­lec­tion that’s plain and in the realest sense of haute cou­ture be­cause some­times I think the idea of cou­ture is that it’s some­thing ex­pen­sive so it must be re­ally vis­i­ble, but I wanted to ex­plain that cou­ture is an in­ti­mate and per­sonal lux­ury. For in­stance, when you ap­proach and buy cou­ture only you know the value that there is in it. The value is in the tra­vail de ate­lier (work done in the ate­lier) and the idea that it is one of a kind and that it is re­ally only made for one per­son and for one body shape. That’s the story and the in­spi­ra­tion for this col­lec­tion. SEV­ERAL OF THE PIECES FROM THIS COL­LEC­TION LOOK CHIC BUT THEY ALSO LOOK PRAC­TI­CAL TO WEAR ALL DAY LONG. IS THIS YOUR WAY OF DE­SIGN­ING CLOTHES FOR WOMEN WITH BUSY LIFE­STYLES? Ab­so­lutely. I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially now, to cre­ate some­thing that’s not wear­able be­cause then, to me, it’s not real. I think that we are sup­posed to give some­one a dream and then make it pos­si­ble for her to live this dream. My idea is that I want to make a dress re­ally dreamy and de­sir­able but at the same time one that you can sim­ply use in your [ev­ery­day] life. I want to dream ev­ery day and not just on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. WHAT IS YOUR AP­PROACH TO DE­SIGN­ING HAUTE COU­TURE? IS IT THE SAME AP­PROACH AS DE­SIGN­ING READY-TO-WEAR? No, ab­so­lutely not. In some ways, I think that cou­ture is more time­less. Pret-a-porter is more about what’s hap­pen­ing now. The ap­proach is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. YOU’VE BEEN AT DIOR FOR AL­MOST TWO YEARS NOW. WHAT DO YOU WANT CUS­TOMERS TO AS­SO­CI­ATE WITH THE BRAND? I want them to as­so­ci­ate it with fem­i­nin­ity but in a mod­ern way. That’s what I’ve done for two years – pro­mote an idea of women that’s more con­tem­po­rary but at the same time re­mains very close to the val­ues of the house. WHERE DO YOU THINK THE MOOD OF FASH­ION IS GO­ING? That’s an im­por­tant ques­tion. We have a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity with this brand be­cause it has a big his­tory but at the same time we have to un­der­stand that times have changed. I think that we have to try to work in prob­a­bly two dif­fer­ent ways.

For cou­ture, we have to main­tain our her­itage and these kind of val­ues be­cause it is so time­less. With the pret-a-porter col­lec­tions, we want to play around more be­cause it’s about what’s hap­pen­ing in that par­tic­u­lar mo­ment.

WITH TRENDS LIKE ATH­LEISURE AND STREET STYLE, IS IT MORE ABOUT CA­SUAL WEAR AND COM­FORT? I think that, nowa­days and es­pe­cially with pret-a-porter, it’s im­por­tant that you do a col­lec­tion that one can use for dif­fer­ent mo­ments and that can cover dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions be­cause women are re­ally mul­ti­fac­eted. They work but they play sports and then they have for­mal oc­ca­sions to go to.

The idea is to pro­pose a for­mal wardrobe where you can mix it, where you can use the pieces in dif­fer­ent ways and where you can per­son­alise your style. We are speak­ing to a gen­er­a­tion that has more in­for­ma­tion about fash­ion and has more of their own sense of per­sonal style. I think we shouldn’t im­pose a par­tic­u­lar point of view but in­stead sup­port them more in a way to re­alise their own per­sonal style. DO YOU CRE­ATE READY-TO-WEAR THE SAME WAY YOU WOULD CRE­ATE AC­CES­SORIES? In some ways, yes, be­cause I re­ally like to make the clothes in pret-aporter iconic pieces. Ac­ces­sories is a world where iconic is some­thing that’s very im­por­tant be­cause you want to buy an iconic bag or iconic shoes. In this kind of cul­ture you can also trans­late it into pret-aporter be­cause the Bar jacket is also an iconic jacket. It’s not a sea­sonal jacket. It’s a jacket that you can use for more than one sea­son.

“We are sup­posed to give some­one a dream and then make it pos­si­ble for her to live this dream”

In pret-a-porter, I try to mix in el­e­ments that prob­a­bly are more sea­sonal but some – es­pe­cially jack­ets, coats or denim pants – could be iconic pieces that are more time­less. YOU’VE CRE­ATED YOUR OWN SIG­NA­TURES AT DIOR AND YOU’VE ALSO RECRE­ATED PRE­VI­OUS HOUSE CODES AND AC­CES­SORIES. HOW IM­POR­TANT IS IT TO REIN­VENT DIOR’S HOUSE CODES? I think it’s im­por­tant to change things ev­ery time but still main­tain the iconic pieces like the Sad­dle bag. You have to see that with a new eye be­cause the style of life changes. The ini­tial Sad­dle bag, for ex­am­ple, was with­out a strap. We de­cided to put on a spe­cial strap with a big rib­bon be­cause now it’s more com­mon to use a bag with straps. We made the con­struc­tion of the bag dif­fer­ent too, be­cause now I think there is another way to use the bag. It’s not only a sig­na­ture piece but it’s some­thing that lives with you. WHERE DO YOU USU­ALLY FIND YOUR IN­SPI­RA­TION? Some­times I get in­spi­ra­tion from a book, an ex­hi­bi­tion, an ar­ti­cle that I’ve read in a mag­a­zine or be­cause I spoke with some­one. You don’t re­ally know where in­spi­ra­tion will come from but when it does there will be a sign that you be­lieve that it’ll be good for the col­lec­tion and you will move to­wards that. You don’t start to think about it, it just hap­pens in your nor­mal life. HOW IN­VOLVED ARE YOU IN THE PRO­DUC­TION PROCESS? I’m re­ally in­volved with that side be­cause I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble

to pro­duce your style if you aren’t in­volved in it. It’s one thing to think about an idea for a bag or a dress, to make a sketch, and another thing to pro­duce it. For me, it’s very im­por­tant be­cause I’ll recog­nise the hand that makes the piece. I’ll recog­nise if a jacket comes from the tai­lor­ing ate­lier or the floor ate­lier. Some­times I’ll also want to switch it. For in­stance, some­times I’ll ask the suit ate­lier to make a dress be­cause I want the hand [fin­ish­ing] to be a lit­tle bit more graphic.

I think it’s very im­por­tant to know who pro­duces the piece. It’s also about the re­la­tion­ship with the de­signer and the peo­ple who cre­ate the pieces. It’s a con­ver­sa­tion that isn’t pos­si­ble to have another way. IT SEEMS THAT FASH­ION CY­CLES ARE GET­TING SHORTER AND SHORTER. AS AN ARTIS­TIC DIREC­TOR FOR A LUX­URY HOUSE, HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THIS KIND OF EN­VI­RON­MENT AND STAY REL­E­VANT? The times are very short, that’s true. I was ob­sessed with that. When I started to work in fash­ion there were only two col­lec­tions, one for win­ter and one for sum­mer. Now we have one each month and it’s very dif­fi­cult to work in.

It’s nec­es­sary to have a good team that speaks the same lan­guage and it’s im­por­tant to work in a team. It’s not pos­si­ble [as

“We are speak­ing to a gen­er­a­tion that has more in­for­ma­tion about fash­ion and their own sense of style”

an artis­tic direc­tor] to think that you shouldn’t in­volve other peo­ple im­me­di­ately be­cause they have to sup­port you and work with you on the ideas that you want to cre­ate. The only way that I found to work faster is to work very closely with all the staff. I’ll share all the in­for­ma­tion with them. We have a big room and we’ll work to­gether on all the cat­e­gories: shoes, bags, preta-porter, print, knitwear and so on. The only thing is to be in­clu­sive. IMAG­INE YOU’RE HAV­ING A CON­VER­SA­TION WITH MR DIOR HIM­SELF. WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT? Oh, I’m very cu­ri­ous about him and his ob­ses­sion with tarot. So I’m sure that I’d start the con­ver­sa­tion with, “Please tell me all about tarot cards and why they’ve in­flu­enced you.” Also, I would like to know about art be­cause he was a col­lec­tor and he was so in­ter­ested in art. I’m very fas­ci­nated by his life so I would like to know every­thing about art and every­thing about tarot. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE FOR DIOR IN THE FU­TURE? I hope to con­tinue this legacy with women. [I hope] that women in the fu­ture come to Dior and think that, in some way, they found a house that will take care of them. That’s what I re­ally want.

CLOCK­WISE FROM OP­PO­SITE PAGE: THE MIN­I­MAL­IST SET OF DIOR’S HAUTE COU­TURE AU­TUMN/WIN­TER 2018 SHOW; MOD­ELS POS­ING BACK­STAGE; THE BOX­LIKE STRUC­TURE AT PARIS’S MUSÉE RODIN

EM­BROI­DERY, PLEATING AND TAI­LOR­ING SHOW­CASED THE SAR­TO­RIAL SKILLS OF THE DIOR ATE­LIER

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