The case of Maria Grazia Chiuri (and who might succeed her)

The fact that Maria Grazia Chiuri has had a large impact as the creative director of Christian Dior simply isn’t debatable.

From coining the ‘we should all be feminists’ logo tee – an homage to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche – to reissuing the Dior Saddle Bag (the hottest product of the northern hemisphere 2018 summer according to Lyst), the Italian designer has made waves since her tenure at the brand commenced in late 2016.

Dior is popular with consumers, Dior is making money as a business.

As the first female directorial lead at the house, the significance of her appointment can’t be overlooked. Dior’s womenswear collections hold connotations of elegance, opulence and highlighting the female figure in decadent garments.

Having a woman designing the garments and coordinating manner in which this will be executed is to be lauded – a woman designing for women. It’s a feat many aspire to in the industry.

Taking the helm of one of the most decorated French houses was always going to be met with millions of eyes watching – and scrutinising – every single move.

Yet, as Maria Grazia continues her reign at Dior there’s a common theme across her collections: meh, lacklustre, “it’s ok I guess.” These descriptions aren’t typically associated with Dior but are becoming more prevalent with each showing.

The standard is slipping lower at Dior as each season progresses.

Maria Grazia has repeated her own designs on the runway many times – a noteworthy example is the sheer skirt over shorts combination, which initially appeared in 2017 and again in 2018.

It isn’t a crime to repeat concepts that are working for a brand (hello Chanel with tweed-suited everything every year) but the repetition lacked the variation needed to allow leave each incarnation to stand alongside its sister as an individual rather than an identical twin.

Fashion commentator Luke Meagher has discussed and dissected the Italian designer’s work at Dior, often with valid criticisms of her work and stylistic choices. In a 2019 interview with Cools, Meagher said, “the thing is, the more I look at the collections and what Maria Grazia is trying to get at, I still think it’s a loss”.

“But I do understand and see that she has developed a new look and sensibility.

“She definitely has cultivated an image for Dior that is doing very well, but I also am on her about using things that aren’t hers like the saddle bag or prints from different cultures. It’s like, girl no. But the more I look at the collections, the more I do have hope for her.”

This begs the question: who is Dior Womenswear’s natural successor?

Jonathon Anderson

Of his eponymous label and as creative director of Loewe, Jonathan Anderson is a strong candidate for the position.

While the aesthetic and creative direction seen at Loewe is distinctly opposed to that of Dior, Anderson’s creative sensibilities and adaptability as a designer position him favourably for the role.

He’s a self-described fan of Anoinette-ish volume in his garments and often fuses androgyny with dainty, feminine details as well as dreamy tailoring and intricate details that elevate a look.

Christopher Bailey

Burberry’s former chief creative officer – a position he held for 17 years – Christopher Bailey often flirted with both men’s and women’s designs.

A strong accessories following also helped elevate the designer to cult status and reinvigorated the Burberry brand. Textures, silhouettes and colour palettes at every showing were streamlined to showcase Burberry as a house while playing with seasonal motifs and refreshed fits. Bailey’s experience and eye could prove beneficial for Dior.

Phoebe Philo

Phoebe Philo is the missing piece in the fashion puzzle of which we have been deprived since she left Celine in 2018.

Her understanding of what women want to wear and how to balance a refined wardrobe with experimental trends has gone unmatched since she departed the designer world.

An elevation to a couture house may appear brash and unrealistic, but the reinvigoration of Dior may just lie with the British designer’s ability to craft delicate-yet-edgy garments.

To her credit, Maria Grazia has developed a new look for Dior. Her initial collections were a far cry from her predecessor Raf Simmons’, stamping her own aesthetic on the brand.

But when a brand begins to present collections lacking the panache of the reputation attached to it – a reevaluation should be implemented.

As The Cut fashion editor Cathryn Horyn said: “A show by a major Paris house should strive to leave you with that feeling that it matters — every season.”

Image by Emily Savage