Dior (Finally) Announced Its New Creative Director

Photo: Jenny Anderson/WireImage.
At last, the seat — or, rather, the hand-pleated, flower-beaded throne — left vacant by Raf Simons at Dior in October 2015 has been filled. The creative director role will be taken up by Maria Grazia Chiuri, formerly of Valentino, this month. She’s expected to make the move from Milan to Paris to assume the very high-profile job at the venerable fashion house.

Sidney Toledano, Christian Dior's president and chief executive officer, confirmed the highly anticipated appointment to WWD on July 8, describing Chiuri as a "very direct person, concrete, pragmatic." Chiuri called the opportunity "a great honor" in a statement obtained by the publication. "I measure the tremendous responsibility of being the first woman in charge of the creation in a house so deeply rooted in the pure expression of femininity," she continued. "The endless wealth of its heritage continues to be a constant source of inspiration for fashion, and I cannot wait to express my own vision."

Reuters
broke the news (and the fashion flock's minds) on June 23, citing two anonymous sources close to the situation who revealed that Chiuri would be the first female design head in the French luxury fashion house’s history. Other sources told WWD that spring '17 would be her first collection for the brand. Earlier this week, the Italian label confirmed that Valentino's fall '16 couture show would be Chiuri's last at the house. Her longtime design partner, Pierpaolo Piccioli, with whom she shared creative leadership of Valentino for eight years, will assume the role solo.

Chiuri, a graduate of Rome's Istituto Europeo di Design, began her career as an accessories designer, racking up credits at Fendi and Valentino (long before being named co-creative director of the latter). In 2007, when Valentino Garavani announced he was retiring, he handpicked Chiuri and Piccioli to head up accessories at his namesake brand. The following year, the duo took over creative direction for the entire brand.

Chiuri and Piccioli had been collaborating long before then, though: They met in the 1980s and started working together at Fendi in 1989, according to Business of Fashion. "After 25 years of creative partnership and of professional satisfactions we gave ourselves the opportunity of continuing our artistic paths in an individual way with the reciprocal desire of further great achievements," the designers said in a joint statement announcing Chiuri's departure from Valentino. Of Piccioli, she noted: "I have shared with Pierpaolo a great part of my professional life and it has been an experience made of many successful creative achievements together. I am ready to embark on a new professional challenge."

Dior’s announcement comes after months of speculation as to who would land where, with names like Alber Elbaz and Phoebe Philo thrown into the speculative conversation. (Céline shut down the latter rumor real quick.) For a while, the frontrunner seemed to be Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen — well, that's who Karl Lagerfeld was rooting for, at least. Industry insiders pointed to Chiuri and Piccioli as possible successors to the role, presumably as a package deal, according to a WWD poll published shortly after Simons' departure.

Valentino had its ups and downs during Chiuri and Piccioli's tenure (they took over creative direction of the brand in 2008). On the one hand, it scored in-demand male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel to close out its fall '15 show (and announce their big comeback) generating additional buzz for the brand; on the other, there have been a few misguided creative decisions, such as presenting an "Africa"-inspired spring '16 collection with mostly white models. Overall, though, the company has become profitable under Chiuri and Piccioli's helm, as Reuters reports. There's a reason you suddenly started seeing Valentino Rockstuds everywhere, after all.

That wraps up an exciting (read: stressful and speculation-fueled) season of designer shuffles, now that Saint Laurent, Lanvin, and reportedly Dior have all found their respective creative directors. Now, if everyone can just stay still for a bit...

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