Christian Dior has finalized a contract that will make Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri its seventh couturier, a Paris source told Fairchild.
The Italian designer is to show her first collection for the house this fall, for the spring 2017 ready-to-wear season, the same source indicated.
Dior declined to comment. Valentino officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
WWD first reported that Chiuri could be in the frame last November, and reported on May 31 that she was among three finalists for the job.
The development sets the stage for Dior to welcome its first female couturier — and mark the end of Chiuri’s long and celebrated collaboration with Pierpaolo Piccioli at Rome-based Valentino, which has become one of the hottest and fastest-growing designer brands in Europe, last year surpassing the $1 billion revenue threshold.
Asked if she was in talks with Dior during Paris Fashion Week last March, Chiuri told Fairchild she was not in talks with the French brand, dismissing the speculation as “rumors.”
On Wednesday, she was in an ebullient mood as she and Piccioli presented Valentino’s spring 2017 men’s collection in Paris.
Chiuri’s arrival could be confirmed after the couture shows, which are scheduled for July 3-7, according to a Reuters report.
Sources described Chiuri as a seasoned, steady hand who will bring the couture chops — and noise — Dior is seeking. It is understood Dior also held discussions with Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez.
Successors to founder Christian Dior — who ignited postwar Paris with his extravagant, full-skirted New Look, and whose brief career ended with his death in 1957 — included Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano and Raf Simons, who exited the house in October after the expiration of his initial three-year contract.
Dior studio directors Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier, who had worked under Simons, have taken over in the interim, earning largely positive reviews for their spring couture, pre-fall, fall-winter 2016 and resort 2017 collections, the latter paraded at Blenheim Palace outside of London on May 31.
At the time, Dior confirmed the duo is to head up the fall 2016 couture show next month.
Excepting Saint Laurent, who logged only a few seasons before being conscripted into the French army, Simons had the shortest tenure of Dior’s recent designers, sparking debate about the breakneck pace — and constraints on creative freedom — in today’s global, bottom-line driven fashion industry.
Simons had succeeded Galliano, who was ousted in March 2011 following racist and anti-Semitic outbursts at a Paris café. The Belgian designer submitted his resignation only weeks before Alber Elbaz was pushed out of Lanvin after a stellar 14-year tenure, ushering in another wave of changes at the highest levels of European fashion.
Lanvin recently revealed that Bouchra Jarra would succeed Elbaz at the creative helm of women’s collections, while Anthony Vaccarello has succeeded Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent. Both are to show their first collections for spring 2017 this fall in Paris.
That Dior signed on Chiuri suggests the house is ready for another shift in fashion direction, given Simons’ predilection for minimalism and futurism, which was an about-face from the retro-tinged glamour Galliano plied over a storied 15-year tenure. It also signals that Chiuri is finally ready to strike out on her own, having spent almost the entirety of her fashion career at Piccioli’s side.
While they had a rough start at the creative helm of Valentino fashion, the duo have won acclaim for plying a chaste, graceful femininity with Renaissance airs, exemplified by their high-necked, fragile gowns. They have typically culled inspiration from Rome, recently branching out with collections referencing Africa and the world of dance.
The designers were not new to Valentino when they were appointed creative directors. They had already spent 10 years as accessories designers within the company and were well versed in its history. That put them in a unique position when they were asked to assume creative direction of the entire brand.
Before Valentino, the duo had spent 10 years at Fendi, where they met and were credited with the invention of the Baguette, one of the first so-called “It” bags of the modern luxury age. The founding couturier personally wooed them to develop accessories based on his briefings for each season. They were named creative directors of accessories at Valentino when Alessandra Facchinetti was assigned the same title for ready-to-wear after Garavani retired in 2007, and then succeeded her in rtw in October that year.
Speaking at WWD’s CEO Summit last year, Chiuri talked about her affinity for high fashion: “It’s a culture of couture. It’s very close with craftsmanship and quality, but also the tradition that’s part of our past, like Italian. In Rome, you feel that really strongly. In any case, it’s very close with the heart, with the idea that the profession is something artistic, something has a human touch and we really believe that has made a difference in our brand.”
Dior is controlled by luxury titan Bernard Arnault, who is chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Sources suggested Valentino, owned by Qatar’s Mayhoola for Investments, which just bought Balmain, is likely to promote Piccioli to become sole creative director of the Roman house.