Dior’s New Leading Lady

Article publié le 7 juillet 2016

Texte : Jessica Michault
Photo : courtesy of Valentino

It’s finally official, after 17 years at Valentino and more than 25 years with her creative partner Pierpaolo Piccioli, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri has decided it was time to go solo. It has still not been announced that Chiuri will become the first female fashion designer in the history of Christian Dior, but that is just a formality at this point.

Perhaps the first outward sign that Chiuri, 52, was ready for a major change in her life was when she decided to dye her pitch black hair platinum blonde late last year. As any woman will tell you, a major hairstyle transformation is a clear sign that a woman is asking herself some fundamental questions about her life and what she wants to do with it.

And there were other indicators. Photos from the gala opening of the Sofia Coppola directed version of La Traviata that featured Valentino-designed costumes saw the duo, who usually always stood together, posing separately or flanking Coppola and Mr. Valentino. The most recent Valentino menswear show was missing its usual creative fire, as if the duo’s mind was on other things.

From left to right : Valentino haute couture fall-winter 2016, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Sofia Coppola et Maria Grazia Chiuri at La Traviata premiere.

“I thank Mr. Valentino Garavani and Mr. Giammetti for their support in these years and for everything that I have learned from them. I also thank Mr. Sassi and all the people that work within the Valentino Maison for their support in these years,” said Chiuri in the official press release announcing her departure.  “I have shared with Pierpaolo a great part of my professional life and it has been an experience made of many successful creative achievements together. I am ready to embark on a new professional challenge,” she added.

And what a challenge it will be. Dior has an impressive history and archives that Chiuri will quickly have to get a handle of. Her almost two decades at Valentino, first designing the brand’s luxury accessories and then as co-creative director alongside Piccioli gave her precious time to gain institutional knowledge about the house before stepping into the top spot. She is also coming on board at Dior after the brand has been in designer limbo for almost a year while it sought out someone to replace Raf Simons.

At Valentino, Chiuri and Piccioli were like an old married couple. They finished each other’s sentences and it was never really clear who actually did what in terms of the creative process. If one of them was more skilled at flou and the other at tailoring they never talked about such distinctions. With them everything was a collaboration and they shared the heavy burden and pressure of running a house that nearly doubled its profits last year.

« I have shared with Pierpaolo a great part of my professional life and it has been an experience made of many successful creative achievements together. I am ready to embark on a new professional challenge. »

Maybe it was for this reason that Chiuri finally decided to accept the Dior job, having reached a point in her life where she wanted to challenge herself and was looking for new avenues for self-expression. And let’s not forget that it much harder to leverage a higher position of influence and salary when being promoted from within a corporation. It is only by changing companies that a person is able to negotiate from a place of power to create their dream job.

With Piccioli staying on as the sole creative director of Valentino, and Chiuri about to create a whole new chapter in the history of Dior, the duo are in the enviable position of leading two of the most powerful fashion brands in the world. And considering the current state of flux the industry is facing it might just be down to Chiuri to point the way forward. But hey – no pressure.

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