When I started to work in fashion I never reflected on feminism,” Maria Grazia Chiuri
. “At the time fashion was really playful, we had no idea that it could be so important in our lives.”
Since her appointment as the first female artistic director of Christian Diorin July 2016, she has been writing a new chapter in the storied house’s history and using it as a platform for her own political ends. For her, Dior is not about activism, but female empowerment. “When I arrived, I decided to think about femininity in a way that is contemporary,” she says. “The women are different now.”
As customers have more information at their fingertips than ever before, the brand’s responsibility is to engage with them, while maintaining the core values of Dior. “Fashion used to only impose a point of view, now it has to be a dialogue,” she explains.
The “We Should All Be Feminist” T-shirts, inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s political essay, from Chiuri’s debut spring/summer 2017 collection, have gone down in fashion history, and under her watch the slogan has become as much of a Dior trope as the full skirt is. “I never imagined this kind of reaction,” she says, recalling the time she saw a young girl wearing a fake version of the T-shirt in New York. “She didn’t know where it originated from, but she wore it because she believed in the message. To me that is more important than my design because it starts a conversation.”
To the celebrities pledging their allegiance to Chiuri’s Dior by wearing her feminist emblems (the logo tees, the protest knits, the berets), she says, “I’m happy that they use the visibility to support other women. I really believe that women supporting each other is the future.”
Her clothes are rooted in this internal confidence. “Fashion speaks about the body,” she elaborates. “We have to support both women and men to have a good relationship with their bodies, so that they can use fashion to express themselves.” She encourages her customers to mix and match the individual pieces and collections, because she understands that “women want to be part of Dior, but at the same time they want to be unique.”
Chiuri is fascinated by Christian Dior’s legacy, because he turned the brand into an international tour de force in a difficult post-war climate, but her own legacy, she hopes, will be more personal. “I hope that the brand stays very close with women, and that women feel represented. I don’t want to just create cocktail dresses!” she muses. “Women should be able to pick clothes that make them feel confident and beautiful, but that they see a part of themselves in. Women should feel confident every day, not just in special moments.”
The luxury industry is in a “strange” process of redefining itself, according to Chiuri. “For a brand like Dior, luxury means maintaining the craftsmanship and quality, but at the same time it’s something a customer uses every day – not because it’s expensive, but because they really desire it.” Desirable, in all its moral messaging and painstaking craftsmanship, is certainly what Chiuri’s Dior is.