ach week, we present an influential woman whose career and style has inspired the Silkarmour team to aim higher and dress better. This week’s Silkarmour woman is one half of Valentino's creative director-duo, Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Break-ups are never easy. The parting of two souls, which for years have worked, laboured and loved together is painful, upsetting and confusing. But as Valentino might soon learn, you can’t keep a Business of Fashion 500 woman down for long. Stemming from recent reports, Dior has potentially found its new creative director in Maria Graza Chiuri, one half of Valentino’s prestigious design duo. Although Dior is yet to make an official announcement, the potential for this new collaboration is already setting a new standard for other couture houses because if appointed, she will be Dior’s first ever female creative director in its 70 year history.
Grazia Chiuri first made a name for herself working with Pier Paolo Piccioli, after they met at Fendi in 1989. Creators of the baguette - the first of many “It” bags - the pair swiftly transitioned to couture through their commitment to craftsmanship and were headhunted by Valentino himself in 1999. "We started in a time when to be a designer was about what you really produce—the dress, the texture, the craftsmanship, the quality" she previously told Harper's Bazaar, "then fashion just became image. The Internet…changed our life, changed fashion, because everything is so fast. But at the same time we want to maintain our sensitivity [and] our culture." If sensitivity was the target, she most certainly hit the bullseye with her signature dreamy ball-gown aesthetic; collections that Vogue failed to find fault in, season after season.
Many in the industry see Grazia Chiuri as a game changer. “She’s not afraid to shake things up” said W Magazine’s Ally Betker as she “redefined how women want to look…trading overt sexiness for soft, pretty – almost precious - gowns.” But it hasn’t always been fairy-tale dresses and romantic embroidery as she was partly responsible Valentino’s infamous and feather-ruffling Rockstud collection. Peppering heels and handbags in five-pointed studs on luscious shades of red, black and nude leather, Rockstud’s editorial adverts were shot with muscular, tattooed models with menacing glares; void of all romance. But Grazia Chiuri believes in the power of a sharp contrast and true to form, 2013 saw a 36% increase in sales within Valentino’s accessories division, nearly doubling its earnings overall to $640m that year. Now, a pair of Rockstud heels sells for £640 and at one point was classified a collector’s item that was exceedingly difficult to find; all contributing to Valentino jumping the $1billion profit hurdle in 2016, two years ahead of their in-house predictions.
Surprisingly, for someone who is cocooned in the laborious world of couture, Grazia Chiuri is fluent in the language of social media. Whilst most couture houses operate in an environment of secrecy, she admits to conducting a large amount of business over WhatsApp. “The phone is my life” she says, “because it’s so fast; I want everything now!” She also took the instantaneous nature of smart phones and social media one step further, in orchestrating the social media bomb that was Derek Zoolander and Hansel, closing Valentino’s AW15 show in March last year. Social media, as designers have come to realise, is some of the best publicity a brand can get.
The rumours of Grazia Chiuri’s potential position come at an interesting time for championing women in fashion’s leading roles. Her consideration for Dior pulls the debate of gender balance within fashion into the spotlight; why is an industry that predominantly serves women still controlled by men? 2015 and 2016 saw the highest turn-over rate for male designers in leading creative director positions, all within months of each other. Gender has never been the subject of their departure, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that there are next to no women in charge of the creative direction of brands founded for women in the first place, nor are the men at the top of said brands able to stay in their roles. Even in the recent documentary ’Dior and I’, it was revealed that prior to his departure, Raf Simons commanded a team of 20 female seamstresses for production but worked mainly with men for the executive decisions. Maybe Grazia Chiuri and the ‘radical’ notion of a woman designing for other women is what the fashion industry needs.
Cherish your differences: “It’s important to maintain differences. Difference is a value, not a defect. You can argue [if you] make your point of view more strong.”
Let your personal style evolve: “One day you want to be a minimalist. But by the evening you may want to be in feathers. Fashion today is about wearing whatever feels right in the moment.”
Value teamwork: “[Good] work is always the result of a great team effort. [The] aim is to establish a positive synergy among the team, making sure everyone takes part in the creative and development process of every project.”