Maria Grazia Chiuri finds a safe space to create with la famiglia in Rome
At a moment of compulsory cocooning due to the curse of Covid-19, Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Christian Dior, has been doing things very much in the Italian way. She hunkered down with la famiglia in Rome. Specifically, with her daughter Rachele Regini, who is cultural advisor in the creative department of Dior.
“I am with my daughter Rachele; we are isolation in our family home in Rome. We are all living through this crisis together so I think it’s very important to stay calm and take refuge in our creativity. I am extremely fortunate to say that I am well, and that my family and friends are, too,” explained Chiuri.
“Being healthy and being able to be at home is a privilege, so we really have to remember how lucky we are,” added the Italian designer in an exchange with FashionNetwork.com from Italy.
Both she and Regini now share an apartment in the historic centre of the Italian capital, perched high among the steeples and cupolas of Rome, and overlooking an orange garden where cloistered nuns walk and meditate.
Chiuri has always been a creator who works closely with her team and atelier. Someone who knows what it means to rise through the ranks. After studying at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome, she joined Fendi in 1989, becoming responsible for many of the house's hit accessories. In 1999, she joined Valentino and ended up in charge of the creative direction of Red Valentino, along with design partner Pierpaolo Piccioli. A decade later, she and Pierpaolo took over the direction of the whole house of Valentino, before she was nominated to one of the most prestigious jobs in fashion: couturier and women’s creative director of Christian Dior, in 2016. The first woman designer ever at Dior, following in the footsteps of such legends as Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Gianfranco Ferré and, of course, the great Monsieur Dior himself.
Since arriving at Dior, Chiuri has injected a welcome feminist point-of-view; while managing contemporaneously to create an insouciant yet gutsily elegant style. Now, for such a hands-on designer, the sheer distance from her team has required her to come up with new methods to stay connected or to work.
“Technology is helping us to stay in touch, like having meetings via FaceTime and working by phone on a daily basis. The staff of the atelier in Paris are working from home and they send me photo updates or videos of work in progress. Of course, sometimes it’s a challenge because I find that the best ideas often come from conversations and from people being in the same room, but I think we all need to adapt to this temporary situation. My team is well, and I think being home has sparked their creativity even more. I speak with them regularly, and I feel that there’s an even greater sense of energy there than before. Creativity is a safe space in which you can take refuge from the real world, so it’s become even more special now,” opines Maria Grazia.
Though Chiuri was born in Rome, Maria Grazia’s mother comes from Salento, in Puglia, the region that makes up the boot of the Italian peninsula. No country has suffered more of the virus than Italy, with over 16,500 deaths by Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s impossible not to be affected by the situation. Of course, I am deeply saddened by what’s happening. I was proud to see so many Italian fashion brands, as well as Dior of course, producing masks and sanitizer for hospitals. We work closely with so many factories in Italy that my priority lies in supporting them and in continuing to support them after the crisis has abated,” explained the couturier.
Unlike many in fashion, she is not hyper connected to her social media community, seeing this time is a moment for reflection and respecting people's space both physically and virtually in the lockdown.
“I use it (social media) sporadically, but not as much. I am quite occupied with work and spending time with my family. I'm ultimately not a very digital person!”
Chiuri’s latest show for Dior was staged inside a tent in the Tuileries gardens in late February during Paris Fashion Week. A brilliant display, entitled Rivolta Femminile, where the inspiration was Chiuri’s own rebellion against bourgeois norms and dress codes in her youth in the Eternal City. Staged underneath giant neon signs designed by the Claire Fontaine collective, one could read: Women are the Moon that Moves the Tides, or When Women Strike the World Stops.
Remarkably, with the benefit of hindsight and the appreciation of how vital social distancing is to break the tide of Covid-19, it is remarkable that nearly 2,000 of us showed up to that show, practically rubbing shoulders as we sat down in the bleachers inside the tent.
Looking back, Maria Grazia concedes that she realized early on the severity of the pandemic.
“I understood the severity of this crisis right away when the news about China first started. I remember it was right before the last autumn-winter show. I was working very hard but my mind kept returning to thinking about what was unfolding,” she recalled.
Since then, Dior has cancelled its planned cruise show in Chiuri’s mother’s native Puglia, scheduled for early May. Moreover, French fashion authorities have also called off the next haute couture season, traditionally held in early July. Meaning that Chiuri’s next runway show for Dior will not be until the end of September, with the spring 2021 ready-to-wear season in Paris.
Now, after weeks of confinement and reflection, does she believe that the old ways of staging fashion seasons with all the obligatory travel will change?
“I don’t think anyone can tell right now. I think the whole world will have to adjust to new routines, and fashion will have to do it too, at least for some time. It’s very hard to predict how things will change down the line. I'm focusing primarily on the present, taking things day by day and seeking refuge in my creativity. I don’t think it’s wise to go out of your way to try to predict the future, I simply think there will be some adjustments to make and that we have to be ready to embrace these changes,” she concludes.
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