At a time when many have given up on hosting physical fashion events this summer, Dior has turned this situation on its head. In a presentation made by star designer Maria Grazia Chiuri and Christian Dior Couture chairman and CEO Pietro Beccari, the LVMH-owned brand took a clear stance in favour of physical runway shows and fashion weeks, an affirmation that coincides with the announcement of the Dior cruise show on 22 July in Lecce, in Italy’s Puglia region. Somewhat ironically, it was via a digital press conference that the brand had to make its stand in defence of traditional physical fashion shows, on Monday, 22 June.
“Luxury is excitement. And in the case of fashion, nothing beats the excitement of a real runway show: a live performance where artists act with no safety net,” said Beccari confidently at the start of the presentation. Despite the currently complicated circumstances, which have forced many fashion capitals to opt for a digital format for their summer events, the executive, who succeeded Sidney Toledano as the brand’s leader, believes that the situation is no more than a passing phase. “The location, the music, the story that Maria Grazia wants to tell, the electricity that people feel in the moment, the deadlines, the adrenaline… all of that is part of the world of fashion,” he explained.
“We believe that there will always be a place in fashion for live runway shows,” the executive went on, emphasising his preference for physical events. This bias has facilitated the decision to host the next Dior cruise show physically, albeit without a live audience. “It will be a very special show,” he added, pointing out that the event will feature collaborations with craftsmen from the Puglia region, as a result of partnerships established before quarantine. Many of the craftsmen had given up on the show happening, most likely considering more feasible presentation formats, such as the lookbook-style video with which Chanel presented its cruise collection at the start of this month. Proud of having been able to keep its word to these craftsmen, the Italian manager assured that, in the wake of the pandemic, “supporting our country is the most important thing for both of us.”
“We wanted to send a message of support, optimism and rebirth after this difficult period for the whole fashion family,” said Beccari, explaining the reasons behind the maison’s decision to go ahead with this project. “I think of all the large and small suppliers, the family businesses run by craftsmen in France and Italy. Many of them have seen their whole winter collections cancelled because of these misfortunes and many others still don’t know how they are going to survive. We wanted to give them all a reason to start again,” he explained, while also mentioning “the rest of the fashion family,” such as models, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, musicians and producers. “We think that the event will act as an incentive to all those who work on runway shows to move forward with optimism,” he added.
“We believe that there will always be a place in fashion for live runway shows”
While Kering-owned brands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent have taken advantage of the quarantine period to reassess their participation in fashion weeks, and others, such as Dries Van Noten, have made calls to bring the industry calendar into question, Dior seems to be more comfortable with the traditional system. “We will definitely follow the rhythm of the fashion weeks,” said Beccari with unambiguous certainty. “I think that there are a lot of people in Paris, the city where we host our shows, who expect us to follow this rhythm. It implies a lot of business, not to mention tradition. And I consider that the injection of innovation is important for our business,” he specified, in reference to the cruise collection, described as “an important collection that will be in stores from late October.”
In light of Beccari’s announcement that Dior will be maintaining its show at next September’s fashion week, Chiuri said that she wanted to “remind people that fashion week is not only important for the fashion family, but also for the city where the shows are held. Pietro and I are Italian, and we know how important fashion week is in Italy and France, not only for the fashion industry, but for the city. Our idea is that we mustn’t forget that we’re also important for others.”
Nonetheless, before September, Dior will be hosting an event for its Haute Couture collection via a digital format from 6 to 8 July. “We will present a different focus, but we’re still not ready to explain it. I think it’ll be a big surprise,” teased Beccari in reference to the event, which begins on 6 July at 2.00 pm. “In line with the idea of a physical runway show, what’s really important to us is the excitement and the story that we want to tell, which is completely authentic and faithful to the DNA of Monsieur Dior. Excitement in the sense of surprise and the poetry that we want to transmit,” he expounded, lamenting that the Haute Couture show will not be able to be presented with a physical show, but reassuring fans that the house will do everything to ensure the event’s dreamlike quality and its faithfulness to the tradition of couture.
The French brand has therefore adapted itself to the use of digital resources but has not committed to this project in the long term. “We don’t plan to continue doing shows in this way. It might happen depending on the security measures that we have to respect, but for example, this September in Paris, we hope to be able to welcome at least part of the audience to the show, even if we can’t invite everyone,” said Beccari. This is an inevitable adaptation to the current context, but simultaneously represents a challenge for buyers, who are being supported by the brand through “a fantastic system of videos.”
“Community, inclusivity and craftsmanship”
“The collection that we’re going to present in Puglia has already been bought by our own people in Paris. We’re preparing everything in the best possible way to be able to present our pieces to our international buyers and we’ll do the same for buyers in the wholesale channel,” explained the CEO, describing the company’s currently digital operations. “Of course, seeing and touching the fabrics and the craftsmanship would be much better, but we are organising ourselves so as to have time to send samples of the materials, bags and footwear to a number of regions. This isn’t how we want to be working in the future, but it’s the way that we have been forced to work at the present time,” he added. “On this occasion, it’s very difficult for everyone to organise themselves for the long term. We have to live from day to day and see what we can do in the right way. Each day you have to reinvent the way you work and that’s a new situation for everyone,” said Chiuri.
When speaking about the impact of the crisis on Dior’s business in China, one of the regions that has been most deeply impacted by the consequences of Covid-19, Beccari seemed sure of his strategy, but preferred not to provide data concerning sales before the announcement of the company’s financial results. “We are very connected to our Chinese customers,” he said, pointing out that the brand will be presenting the “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” digital exhibition in a 2,200-square-metre space in Shanghai. “We are the first brand to organise an event of this magnitude in a country that has been so hard hit by the pandemic. It will be our first present to our Chinese customers,” he claimed. In addition, on 23 July, the day after the show in Puglia, the brand will open 19 pop-ups featuring the Dioramour collection across China, especially curated by Chiuri and arriving just in time for Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Furthermore, the Italian executive was confident in relation to Dior’s online revenues, which he did not highlight as a category that the company needs to be bolstering, so much as a channel that complements its physical stores. “The brand has had its e-commerce platform for three years and it’s very active. We opened our platform for Middle Eastern countries before the pandemic began and it has been a very important tool for us, through which we’re able to reach customers that we could not get in touch with via our own stores. It also completes the brand experience which is not only physical these days, but also digital,” he said.
If in 1947 Christian Dior’s New Look marked a turning point in the history of fashion, in the wake of the pandemic, all eyes are on Chiuri to see what she will do. “I feel the responsibility of being the creative director of a house like Dior. Of course, because it is a big company. Pietro told me that there are 7,000 of us,” joked the Italian designer, as though attempting to lighten the mood. “We also have a large supply chain, so of course I feel responsible. But it’s also because I started to work in fashion when I was very young and I know just how important fashion is, both in Italy and France. I feel a sense of responsibility, but I’m also happy that we can create in a creative way,” she reflected.
When it came to finding the right words to describe the industry in which she works, the designer was doubtful. “It’s very difficult to define what fashion is. Fashion is much more than anyone could imagine,” she pondered. There was, however, no mincing of words when outlining the concepts that are inspiring her next creations: “Community, inclusivity and craftsmanship.” A trio that should come as no surprise following Chiuri’s emotional description of the workshops and traditions of her native Italy.
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