Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of Dior, is a highly unconventional designer who has earned her rightful place amongst the unconventional and avant-garde designers of our time. Chiuri’s hard work helped her rise to the top of these major fashion brands. She is incredibly remarkable because, not least, she is one of the few women to have done it. Her innovative approach to fashion was evident every season as she continually redefined the concept of collaboration.
As I had the privilege of highlighting in my previous profile of her, Chiuri has a unique way of looking at collaborations. While other fashion brand leaders may see collaborations as just flashy teamwork, she sees them as a relationship-building process and a way to share the stage. One of the best examples of this is her long-standing partnership with the Chanakya atelier in Mumbai, India.
Her collaboration with Chanakya atelier’s director, Karishma Swali goes back decades, having first met her while working as a designer at Fendi and Valentino. Chiuri was enamored with Swali’s firm’s exquisite embroideries and over the years sought out her services continuously. For several years, Dior has supported the Chanakya School of Crafts. It is a notable institution that trains women in the art of hand embroidery. This educational program enables them to earn their own income and support their families or live independently.
In Spring 2020, Chiuri took her collaboration with the Chanakya School of Crafts to a whole new level. She brought the school to the fore as a collaborator on her couture collection, giving them an unprecedented attention in the fashion industry, which frequently uses Indian ateliers but rarely discusses it, preferring instead to promote the myth of European craftsmanship. This move was a significant step towards a more inclusive and diverse approach to fashion.
On Thursday, Chiuri took her most audacious step yet in this friendship, launching her Fall 2023 show in Mumbai as a “creative dialogue” between Dior and Chanakya. The runway show was held amidst an art installation created by Chanakya and her School of Crafts. The collection was one of the most heavily embroidered collections to date, with rich silks and jewel tones that were revealed in an achingly beautiful evolution of color and texture. It was a stunning display of the harmonious relationship between Dior and the Chanakya School of Crafts.
What is remarkable about Chiuri’s approach to fashion is her insistence that it is a global enterprise, not only in its consumer reach but also in the creation itself. This movement towards diversity and inclusiveness is especially noteworthy at Dior, a brand that is synonymous with France and the French. However, other fashion brands are beginning to undertake similar efforts to embrace cultural diversity. For example, Chanel held a show in Dakar in December, and many other fashion houses use the tourist-heavy resort season to hold shows in Asia.
The narrative of colors in the Fall 2023 collection alone, flowing from black to beige into green, then to pink and purple and dark taupe, is one of the most stunning sequences in recent fashion memory. The impact that another culture’s sense of beauty can have on European design sensibilities is probably as significant as the possible political or social implications. Fashion is, after all, a reflection of the times, and in an era as sensitive as ours, how brands approach these cultural exchanges will be one of the great intrigues of the next decade. Chiuri’s efforts to embrace diversity and inclusivity in fashion will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration for generations to come.