PARIS, France — When Sidney Toledano first met Maria Grazia Chiuri, he knew she was the right woman to take over the helm at Christian Dior as artistic director and lead the French fashion house into a new era.
“She’s very straightforward and a direct person and so, frankly, the first time I met her, I knew that she was the one,” the chief executive of Dior told BoF in an interview before the official announcement on Friday morning, noting Chiuri’s previous experience at Valentino and Fendi, as well as her clear vision of who the Dior woman was.
"We were talking about the vision of the woman of today, of tomorrow, of the young generation. The woman in different occasions — when she works, when she is shopping, when she is going for a cocktail or dinner. She has a global experience and big intuition, at the same time she is really pragmatic and the way she talks about it, it is very clear," Toledano said.
The appointment of Chiuri was announced early on Friday, finally ending months of speculation over who would take the creative helm of the brand after the sudden departure of Raf Simons last year. Valentino officially confirmed the departure of Chiuri on Thursday, appointing Pierpaolo Piccioli the brand's sole creative director.
Chiuri joins Dior at a difficult time for the luxury sector. In the first quarter of 2016, ending March 31, the brand’s fashion division reported a 1 percent drop in reported sales, hit by a drop in tourist flows to Paris and several major Asian markets. Dior generates around €5 billion in annual sales (around $5.53 billion), of which more than three-fifths comes from perfume and cosmetics. LVMH chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault has said he expected to achieve a similar figure in 2016.
The designer will be responsible for women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessory collections and will present her first ready-to-wear collection for the brand on September 30.
“Maria Grazia Chiuri’s talent is enormous and internationally acclaimed,” Arnault said in a statement. “She will bring her elegant and modern vision of the Dior woman, seamlessly attuned to the heritage and the codes defined by Monsieur Dior.”
Chiuri’s appointment is a significant move for the French fashion house, as she will become the first woman in its history to hold the artistic director title.
I was looking for somebody that was deeply understanding the needs of the women of today and tomorrow – globally.
“To dress a woman is more important than ever today. The evolution of women is a special evolution and her vision and how she wants to transform it is really interesting,” Toledano said. "Because she’s a woman and she has a different perspective on what she is going to do and it played an important part. I was looking for somebody that was deeply understanding the needs of a woman of today and tomorrow globally."
Toledano added that Chiuri's “hands-on experience” of designing accessories will also be important in the next chapter of Dior, a subject close to his heart. He played an instrumental role in launching the Lady Dior bag, now one of the house's best-selling icons.
“She has knowledge and understanding and for the accessories I have somebody now that has direct experience with the bags and shoes and this is really important. This is what we want to give to Dior, and so she will be very involved in that,” he continued.
But customers should not expect the same Dior, he said. “It will be different. We have our codes, absolutely, and we have our values about the excellence, the savoir-faire, the silhouette. But Dior is also a house where you have to take l’air du temps and project it for the future.”
“I think she will translate it with her own eyes, in a different way and the fact that she is woman, we expect this translation in the coming collections. It’s not a constant look and she will have to put her own way to [how to] do it. The codes of Dior, they exist but they are not so [strict], you can play with them. This is something that Raf did and John [Galliano] did before, so there are some codes, but we expect her to bring something into the evolution of the brand," Toledano said.
Looking forward, Toledano said he felt proud and was excited to introduce Chiuri to the company and its teams.
“I’m really happy myself to introduce her to the teams, to the studios, very proud of that. This is a big moment,” he said.