It is, at the very least, odd: before arriving at Dior as creative director (as, you know, the first woman leading the company in 70 years) in 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri had never developed a cruise collection. Since then, she has created six, in her own way. Because where others see (yet another) business opportunity, the Roman designer has turned the line into a sociocultural research laboratory focused especially on the various artisanal traditions she discovers in the places she travels to.
There is little left to say about the last stop in her trip on June 16, 2022, in Seville, given all the Instagram posts showing the designer visiting the Basílica de Santa María, leaked pictures of the monumental staging in Plaza de España, spotting the local craftspeople involved in the collection (the saddler Javier Menacho, the jeweller Pedro Ramos, the gold embroiderer Jesús Rosado, the queen of Manila shawls María José Sánchez Espinar, the hatmakers Fernández y Roche), phenomenal singing and dancing (Blan- ca Li, Belén López, El Yiyo, Carmen Amaya in spirit), and a frenzy of chatter on the front row just before the show began. After all the excitement, Chiuri sat down with Vogue Spain from Paris to explain a creative process that gives an insight into the designer like never before.
Cruise collections have long lost their original meaning to become a formula that makes it possible to maintain a constant flow of new items in the shops between the main prêt-à-porter lines. Why did you decide to add a significant cultural value to what is just a sales strategy?
Maria Grazia Chiuri: Cruise collections are an invitation to travel. That is the idea. The question is how to interpret it. In my case, travelling is like knowledge: knowledge of a territory, of the people who live there and the artists who express their creativity. The beauty of travel lies in meeting people. I like to define these collections as community projects, involving various creators, who show us how different we are. Fashion can make us see other realities, particularly through crafts. There is a tendency to see only what goes on in the Paris, Milan, New York, and London fashion weeks, but the fact is fashion manifests everywhere. Making it visible encourages exchange and enrichment. And enrichment is always good.
Is it a designer’s duty to display social and cultural responsibility in their work?
MGC: I strongly believe so. I understand that Dior is a global brand, which means that it bears an enormous responsibility. Moreover, we are a haute couture house, which allows us to support the continuity of small crafts. I come from Italy, which is a country where fashion is experienced in a completely different way than in France, where it is part of the cultural system, even at the academic level. Italians don’t have the same sensibility, perhaps because their mindset is more business-like. The problem is that if you aren’t aware of its sociocultural value, you run the risk of losing certain traditions, that savoir-faire that runs in families, which means belonging. Sometimes, we find it hard to acknowledge simply because these are things that you see every day, that you take for granted. Until someone comes from outside, makes you perceive your reality, and you understand how exceptional it is.