How to take a historical brand into the 21st century? Do as Dior does… hire a female artistic director to turn traditional codes on their head, dismantle geographical borders and twist the creative language so it speaks the unifying language of modern, multi-cultural women. Easy, no? Well, many have tried, and even more have failed. But for Dior, the intelligent appointment in 2016 of the French house’s first female head, Maria Grazia Chiuri, was a stellar move interwoven with longevity.
“The only thing that interests me is to work well for the brand, to give a good message to future generations, and to move the brand forwards,” Maria Grazia tells Bazaar during her visit for Dior’s haute couture show in Dubai in March. “I hope that I am remembered as a designer that moved Dior into the future, with a fresh idea of femininity, a more global, worldwide voice, and a growing conversation with different women.”
To help shape her future vision, Maria Grazia turns to her Arabian clientele, inspired by watching them “mix things in different ways, which enables me to read the different personalities which in turn is fascinating,” she tells BAZAAR of her visit to the UAE. The traditions of Arabian culture merge with her Italian roots, allowing geography to become a unifying force of multiculturism. “Maybe because I’m Italian and the Mediterranean and Arab cultures are very similar - with their big families, love of food, good weather and good times - but I immediately felt at home,” she tells Bazaar.
Another context that affirms Maria Grazia’s bi-cultural values, is the importance of not boxing women into some pre-defined notion of what a ‘woman’ should be, based on culture, society, race or other, here, there or anywhere. “It’s not just about who we are being defined as, it’s about how we are defining ourselves as. I really detest a stereotyped idea of a woman, because we should be allowed to define ourselves. I hope together we all move forward to a future where everybody is more free and more confident to express themselves, and we are all free to redefine our own perspectives. I dream for that future.
Living by the edict, ‘Everything you do could be great,’ it’s Jane Austen and Michelle Obama who help incentivise Maria Grazia’s continuing fight to prove a woman’s worth in today’s society. “My hope is now that the women who come to Dior feel that while it is a couture house with a big heritage, they also feel confident that they’ve found someone who understands them, their necessity, their style of life, someone who doesn’t want to impose anything. Women are so multi-faceted these days and I don’t think they want to be only one way or only one person. My vision is to speak to these women, to allow them to define themselves and for the women to let Dior be there to help them express that.”
Maria Grazia likens the redefinition of house codes to the ever-changing parameters of perception around art, saying: “If you go to all the beautiful museums in Italy, you have these beautiful artists and their beautiful masterpieces. But if you move these pieces of art into another exhibition, you have another point of view. The story changes. We are a company that has a lot of masterpieces inside that can be used in a contemporary way that speaks a language that better interests women today.”
A French brand, with an Italian artistic director, learning from her Arabian audience… that’s definitely a concept that speaks our language. The true definition of haute couture multi-culturism at play.
From the April 2019 Issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia
Press play to watch what happened when the Dior Circus came to Dubai