“I had it in mind that a woman designer might be interesting for a while now.”
So said Sidney Toledano, chief executive of Christian Dior, just before he officially got his wish. On Friday, the company announced that, as had been previously reported in The Times, Maria Grazia Chiuri, the co-creative director of Valentino, was being named artistic director of Dior.
She will be the first woman to lead the creative side in the label’s 69-year history, and the role will be her first solo appointment after more than two decades of working with Pierpaolo Piccioli, who has been named creative director at Valentino. For the first time, Mr. Toledano was talking about the appointment: how it happened, why and what it means.
“When you listen to a woman talk about a woman, whether it is her body or her lifestyle — her work, the way she travels, what she needs — it is not conceptual,” Mr. Toledano said. “It is practical. Maria Grazia is very practical: very straightforward, very clear, and she has no fear. She has a family and a real life. She does things.”
Ms. Chiuri, who is 52 and will be the seventh designer to take on Dior, is going to have a lot to do when she begins this month.
She follows Raf Simons, who left in October. (In the interim, collections have been designed by the studio teams.) And besides the two couture collections, two ready-to-wear collections, one cruise, one pre-collection, shoes, bags, costume jewelry and eyewear, she is going to be involved in image, ad campaigns and store design. (Men’s wear is designed by Kris Van Assche and fine jewelryJewellery or jewelry consists of small decorative items worn for personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Jewellery may be attached to the body or the clothes, and the term is restricted to durable ornaments, excluding flowers for example. For many centuries metal, often combined with gemstones, has been the normal material for jewellery, but other materials such as shells and other plant materials may be used. by Victoire de Castellane.)
This gives Ms. Chiuri more oversight than Mr. Simons, who was reportedly frustrated at not being able to unify his runway vision with its later expression. It reflects, Mr. Toledano said, the fact that Ms. Chiuri will be devoting herself to Dior (Mr. Simons and the designer who came before, John Galliano, maintained namesake lines while at the maison), and the fact that … well, she asked for it. A long time ago, as it turns out.
Mr. Toledano met Ms. Chiuri approximately 20 years ago, he said, when he was looking for a bag designer to help Mr. Galliano. At the time, she and Mr. Piccioli had just left Fendi, where they had started working together, and joined Valentino as accessory designers.
“She said to me: ‘I’m not going to come for just bags. I want the global job,’” Mr. Toledano said, though he would not say when the talks were revived. “Well, now she has it all.”
She has it at a complicated time. The luxury sector is predicted to grow at only 2 percent this year, according to a study from Bain & Company and Altagamma, the Italian trade association. Though Dior reported more than 5 billion euros ($5.53 billion) in sales last year and has 195 stores worldwide, three-fifths of its revenue came from perfumes and cosmetics. Christian Dior Couture, which includes all the clothing lines, contributed 1.8 billion euros to sales in 2015.
And though Ms. Chiuri has experience working with couture and ready-to-wear ateliers, as well as overseeing some of the most successful bags and shoesA shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot while doing various activities. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to function. of recent seasons, she has never led a house by herself.
Her creative relationship with Mr. Piccioli was seen as almost symbiotic — when they took their bow at their last Valentino show on Wednesday, they walked in lock step, though she wore white and he black — and it is unclear how each will function on their own. (The front rows were rife with speculation during the couture shows last week.)
Not surprisingly, Mr. Toledano said he wasn’t concerned. Indeed, he said that though he thought Ms. Chiuri and Mr. Piccioli were “excellent together,” he had not considered bringing both designers to Dior as a team.
“She has a big ambition for the job, but it is not a power play,” he said.
The day of the announcement, Ms. Chiuri was in Rome (Thursday night she and Mr. Piccioli attended the Fendi haute couture show) to say goodbye to her former colleagues at Valentino and get ready for her new life. Mr. Toledano said that he was not sure if Ms. Chiuri would uproot her family — she lives in Rome with her husband, who owns a shirt-tailoring businessA business, also known as an enterprise or a firm, is an organization involved in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers., and two children — or commute, but that she was going to be “very present in Paris.”
Her first Dior collection will be unveiled at the end of September during the women’s ready-to-wear season — one that will include an unprecedented number of new faces atop old houses. Aside from Ms. Chiuri, Bouchra Jarrar will be making her debut at Lanvin, and Anthony Vaccarello at Yves Saint Laurent.
Shortly thereafter, Dior will have its 70th anniversary. “We’re going to celebrate,” Mr. Toledano said. Whether he was talking about the event or the designer was unclear, but the answer is probably both.