After eight months of searching for a new Creative Director to lead Dior after Raf Simons’ surprising departure in October, the brand has finally landed on an appointment. Maria Grazia Chiuri, the fairer half of Valentino, has accepted the position as the head of Dior. This is surprising news to the industry who expected Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen or Alber Elbaz, formerly of Lanvin, to land the title, and it’s even more surprising that the critical-darling design duo behind Valentino is being broken up. It is said that her partner, Pierpaolo Piccioli, will remain at Valentino for the time being.
Chiuri’s appointment at Dior is historically significant for several reasons: it is the first time in the brand’s history that a woman is at the helm, which means it is also the first time that a woman has been at the head of a top French luxury house since Mademoiselle Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel passed away in 1971. With Bouchra Jarrar now at the head of Lanvin, women now lead two of the four top French houses.
Since Simons left Dior, the brand has not been in a rush to find a replacement, leading to many fashion industry rumors about who would land the coveted position. Studio heads Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux were tasked with creating collections in the interim, and though they forged a clear aesthetic, the collections were not critical successes. The uncertainty about Dior’s future is reflected in static sales, which have receded from double-digit growth since Simsons left. Chiuri’s business acumen and couture expertise helped turn Valentino into one of the most profitable luxury brands in the world – a fact that bodes well for Dior’s future.
At this time, it appears that Paris Haute Couture Week in July will be the last season that Chiuri and Piccioli will be paired, and the last season that Meier and Ruffieux will share as interim designers at Dior. This makes for a very, very exciting Spring/Summer 2017 season, which occurs in September.