Maria Grazia Chiuri
In the past two years, designers have been dropping (their brand titles) like flies—whether that be in the form of resignation or betrayal. Headline after headline on fashion news sites displayed reportage of a different designer leaving their brand.
To briefly recap the Valentino-Dior switcheroo, for those of you who aren’t aware of one of the biggest fashion scandals of 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri was selected to be the official successor of Raf Simons. Yes. That Maria Grazia Chiuri who formed one-half of the designer duo responsible for revolutionising Valentino into its current stature.
My initial reaction was one of shock. It was as if the biggest names in fashion were playing catty. Furthermore, I could not escape the thought that Dior was headed for an identity crisis.
Despite his short-term stay at Dior, Raf Simons had resurrected Christian Dior’s Haute Couture. In fact, his architectural background and minimalistic taste had made his gowns stand out even against Galliano’s extravagant masterpieces. Overthrowing the public’s assumption that the Belgian menswear designer could successfully lead the couture giant, Simons became Dior. Given such a precedent, with huge shoes to fill, it made no sense to me that Maria Grazia Chiuri, with her quintessentially Valentino designs, could adapt to the Dior aesthetic.
Are designers succeeding the original meant to add a new futuristic taste to the brand? If so, to what extent are they meant to safeguard the brand’s signature designs?
In the case of Galliano and Simons, they had kept certain elements of the Dior silhouette and colour palette set forth by Monsieur Christian Dior: with Galliano adding his flamboyant flair and Simons enhancing his minimalistic grace. Would Chiuri be able to switch over so quickly from Valentino’s romantic style to Dior’s classic aesthetic? And would her ‘twist’ to the Dior heritage be gothic? The answers would be revealed at the showcase of Dior’s Spring 2017 Couture collection.
Being brutally honest, I found this Haute Couture collection to be extremely disappointing as Chiuri made the exact mistsake I hoped she’d avoid.
The designs themselves were to my liking—but were they to Dior’s? Upon seeing images floating around on social media, I could not tell if the dresses were from Valentino’s or Dior’s Haute Couture collection. Valentino had manifested itself into Chiuri’s designs: after all, Chiuri was the brand itself.
Valentino’s signature element is probably the exquisite tulle and organza craftsmanship. Several gowns showed similar templates to ones shown on Valentino’s runway. The black polka dot overlay was a recurring motif in previous RED Valentino lines; ruffle work on skirts greatly resembled Valentino’s past tiered skirts; and the occasional animal details recreated the fairytale atmosphere of Valentino’s Haute Couture SS 14 collection.
Moving on to Dior’s most recent show, Fall 2017 Ready-To-Wear, Chiuri still seemed to be tangled up in her own taste. The classic Valentino bustier-esque top; once again, the polka dot overlay; and the gothic element from Chiuri’s own style were weaved into the show: un-seamlessly.
Now, let me clarify: I’m not criticising the beauty or quality of Chiuri’s work. Nor am I stating that Chiuri should abandon her vision. It is perfectly human to take time to adapt to a new aesthetic.
But will time really better this situation?
Realistically speaking, it is very hard for a designer to become the creative director of a renowned high fashion brand. Chiuri went above and beyond the standard by evolving the Valentino aesthetic with her own vision: she incorporated a piece of herself into Valentino. It would be superhuman, if not miraculous, for one who’s vision and taste have been merged with Valentino to completely erase traces of her life-long vision and conjure up an entirely new image for a different brand.