In July, 8 months after Raf Simons’ exit, Christian Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano told the New York Times, “I had it in mind that a woman designer might be interesting for a while now.” Maria Grazia Chiuri, formerly the longtime co-creative director of Valentino, is “very practical,” he said. “Very straightforward, very clear, and she has no fear. She has a family and a real life. She does things.”
What a very interesting idea indeed, for a woman to run a womenswear house. A large swathe of the major fashion brands are run by men, from Gucci (Alessandro Michele) to Givenchy (Riccardo Tisci) to Chanel (Karl Lagerfeld) to Yves Saint Laurent (Anthony Vaccarello) to Burberry (Christopher Bailey); last year Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times noted, in a piece praising collections from Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, that less than 20% of the brands showing in Paris had woman creative directors.
At Valentino, Chiuri, along with co-creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, created something dreamy but rooted in history, bringing a goddess-y, vaguely medieval kind of elegance to the brand. This concept wasn’t entirely apolitical, Chiuri told Vogue’s Sarah Mower:
“It was the Berlusconi moment in Italy!” she declared. “It was terrible. I really felt we were strongly reacting against that picture of women.”