Appointing Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri to lead Christian Dior will be historic

At Valentino, Chiuri has had great success developing a cool, contemporary Italian style, and Dior will be looking for much the same when she becomes first woman to lead French fashion house

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2016, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2016, 4:10pm

That Maria Grazia Chiuri, one half of Valentino’s famous design duo, has been tapped as the next creative director of Christian Dior is historic. It will make her the first woman to lead the French fashion house. While news of Dior’s approach was leaked on Thursday, the brand is expected to announce her appointment – the latest power move in high fashion circles – after its couture show in Paris in July.

The eponymous label Christian Dior founded 70 years ago is one of fashion’s biggest. It changed fashion in the 1940s and ‘50s with its New Look, defined by a tiny, nipped waist, the curved lines of the bar jacket and full skirt. Its creative directors have included Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and, most recently, Raf Simons.

Dior reportedly generates annual sales worth some 5 billion (HK$44 billion) (a large percentage coming from perfumes and cosmetics) but in the last 18 months, growth has slowed. Chiuri thus joins at an interesting, even shaky, time for the brand, but it does mean that she can potentially orchestrate a strong positive turnaround.

Chiuri, a designer started out in menswear, has also worked for Fendi. She made her name overseeing Valentino’s accessories range along with fellow Italian and close friend Pierpaolo Piccioli. The duo were promoted to co-creative directors a few seasons after Valentino Garavani stepped down from the brand, and have since blown away industry insiders, critics and consumers with their modern take on the brand, including accessories and menswear. The duo’s reign has seen Valentino’s annual revenue break the US$1 billion mark, and the company is said to be eyeing an initial public offering next year.

Chiuri and Piccioli have promoted a cool, contemporary, new wave Italian style that’s entered popular culture while remaining dedicated to breathtaking craftsmanship. Dior will be looking for much the same with Chiuri at its head, and at first glance her appointment could prove a very fruitful one. But what is to become of Piccioli, many will wonder? Will he lead Valentino without her or move on? For now these are unanswered questions.