In losing Maria Grazia Chiuri, fashion house Valentino has lost one of its golden geese. The split of designer pair Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli has created seismic waves in the world of high fashion, and the ripples will soon be felt at Christian Dior.
The announcement on the Valentino website, in black and white under the photo of Piccioli, looking rather somber and a little defiant, read like the end of an era: “Maria Grazia Chiuri leaves her role as Co-Creative Director after 17 years with the brand and 8 in her role as Co-Creative Director to pursue a new professional experience. Valentino nominates Pierpaolo Piccioli sole Creative Director of the Maison.”
The queen has moved on. Long live the king.
Reuters reported in late June that Christian Dior is set to announce that Maria Grazia Chiuri is joining the French fashion house, making Chiuri the first woman creative director in the company’s 70-year history.
Valentino fans and critics will be looking back at their work and undoubtedly wondering whether this means the end of the Valentino fairy tale or the beginning of two new ones.
The pair were named creative directors for the fashion house after Valentino Garavani retired in 2007. Together they not only re-invented the Valentino look but brought the focus back onto Italian heritage and translated it into a modern, relatable style imbued with a sense of wonder, poetry, and art.
“There is a new client. Couture is where you can get to your dreams,” Piccioli told Vogue just one year ago, after the designers were named 2015 recipients of CFDA Fashion Awards’ International Award.
Chiuri and Piccioli took the richness of baroque brocade and gave it a youthful lightness. Their studies of contrasts—the sheer and the opaque, the hard and the soft, leather and lace, the sculptural and the graphic—have had us enthralled. Even in their ready to wear collections the designer duo had fashioned a youthful opulence for which the Valentino brand has come to be known.
Their appeal was wide. Everyone from Keira Knightley and Reese Witherspoon, to Nicki Minaj, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna, and even the usually minimalist Tilda Swinton, have worn Valentino on the red carpet.
Their last collaboration—the 2016 Fall couture collection shown this week—was an Italian high-fashion take on Shakespearean characters that, in a somewhat elliptical turn of theatrical events, often inhabit Renaissance Italy.
White starched ruff collars, regal fur capelets, were paired with black riding pants. Black velvet played its part, and so did the maiden’s maxi gowns in transparent, soft pastels—every heroine more demure than the next, yet with a touch of Valentino subversion, all equipped with riding boots underneath.
At the time when Christian Dior created the new look, he did it to give femininity back to women. If Chiuri takes the reigns of Dior, she will be taking on Dior’s legacy while all eyes will be on her ability to pull the same hat trick as she and her design partner achieved at Valentino, and with it, pull the French fashion house out of stagnation.