ROME- “I am convinced that only art will save the world.”
So thinks Maria Grazia Chiuri, Artistic Director of Women’s Fashion at Dior, speaking with WWD about “Roman Night,” a film directed by Angelin Preljocaj set in the majestic 16th-century Renaissance Palazzo Farnese, home to from the French Embassy in Italy. The Embassy, Dior and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma collaborated on the making of the film, which will be released on Friday, International Dance Day, on the couture brand’s YouTube channel and social media.
“Art is so strong that it has the power to look beyond difficult times and regenerate,” Chiuri said in one of the palace’s salons, after a preview of the film.
She was grateful to Dior and his team for having survived the COVID-19 pandemic last year and delivering the fashion collections, but also for allowing him to create the costumes for “Nuit Romaine” during ” tough times for everyone – it was tough for small brands but also for established brands,” she admitted. “All sectors have been affected and it was emotional to see the film now, knowing what was going on there, working during lockdowns and travel restrictions, with half the team in Rome, half in Paris. And last year we never stopped, we did the cruise show in Lecce, we made the film with Matteo Garrone to show the couture collection. It’s been an amazing year. And now with this war [in Ukraine]the moment is even more poignant and it is important to give hope that all of this can be overcome.
Chiuri is therefore more focused than ever on promoting the arts, as well as fashion, thinking of new generations, including dancers who have been excluded from any public activity during the pandemic. “So many young people have seen their lives changed dramatically and have felt lost. We must accompany them, help them by giving them prospects for the future.
For “Nuit Romaine”, Chiuri collaborated again with Eleonora Abbagnato, ballet director of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and star of the Opéra national de Paris, after the ballet “Nuit Blanche” in 2019, of which she also designed the costumes.
“I strongly believe in common projects, in exchanges between different worlds. To be an artist means to create a world that you want, that you dream of,” she said.
Clearly, Chiuri doesn’t believe in designers trapped in their ivory towers, and she paid tribute to the also Rome-based atelier Biagiotti, which helped her during the pandemic with some of the costumes from “Roman Night “, drawing on a long-standing personal relationship with the Biagiotti family.
Six years after landing her job at Dior, Chiuri isn’t looking back and, on the contrary, she continues to be passionate about her work, emphasizing the importance of being stimulated by sharing projects with other creative minds or with young designers, including his daughter Rachele Regini, who has joined the Dior team.
In “Nuit Romaine”, Abbagnato plays Nox, goddess of the night, and is flanked by Friedemann Vogel. As she dances through the palace, she encounters other dancers representing popes, dukes, and noblewomen who have lived in Palazzo Farnese over the centuries.
“It’s so inspiring to compete with artists who use their bodies in different ways, experiment with new techniques, but work on an aesthetic that must also be functional,” explained Chiuri, who shares with Christian Dior himself a passion for ballet.
The costumes were exquisite, with delicate hand-worked draping and pleating on capes and robes that at times also had to convey the idea of armour, while allowing freedom of movement. Lace inlays, cascades of pearls and color gradients create spectacular effects. Hand-painted costumes, designed in trompe-l’oeil, were decorated with the characters that figure in the Carracci frescoes on the vault of the Farnese Gallery. Like a trip back in time and the opposite, a few jeans, t-shirts and sneakers were also part of the range.
As a Roman, Chiuri was familiar with Palazzo Farnese and its artwork, but she admitted that the association of the various characters, history and art with the clothing was “quite complex”.
Costume design is not a new outlet for Chiuri, who also worked in 2016 with the Rome Opera when she was Valentino’s co-creative director, designing costumes for ‘La Traviata’ directed by Sofia Coppola. .
Asked if she thinks there’s generally a growing interest in period films, the designer replied: “Yes, they make you think about how society has changed – and she has a lot changed. Clothes reflect a historical period and the evolution of humanity and our bodies. The value of fashion and clothes is underestimated. Clothes say a lot about us and they have deep meanings. Just like colors: think about red and how it conveys power. I’m not just interested in fashion, but in the history of fashion and the evolution of clothing. As a feminist, I believe that women’s lives were conditioned by clothes, when they couldn’t walk or leave the house because they were so cumbersome.
After 38 years in the industry, Chiuri said she had seen her share of cycles, but women leading fashion houses were still rare. “There are a lot of women working in fashion, but it’s very complex to get to the top, as it is in other sectors. We must insist on and facilitate the access of new generations to key positions,” explained Chiuri, praising Dior for its role as a mentor to young women.
“You can never let your guard down and must always push to have a voice and fight for your rights,” she said, lamenting, for example, “that we don’t talk enough about Afghan women today” .
Abbagnato is an example of the “strong will, rigorous training and skill” that contributed to his success, Chiuri said. “Knowing her and working with her enriched me. She trusts me and my work and we have become friends. I consider all the people I have worked with as my creative family, the exchange is always stimulating and we pursue relationships beyond our common projects.
Like Chiuri, Abbagnato has built a cultural bridge between Italy and France and, answering a question about her working time in the latter country, the designer said: “France is very institutional compared to Italy. Fashion is strongly rooted in the cultural system, there is no difference between fashion, art, culture or theater, everything is under the same cultural umbrella.
In Italy, on the other hand, “unfortunately less because fashion is perceived more as a craft activity or a social experience, and there is less awareness at the institutional level of the value of fashion. However, Italy is Mediterranean, surrounded by three seas, and it is a country that has the ability to deal with everyone with an easy attitude. I like to think that I brought a bit of that lightness to France – I kept the shapes while lightening the constructions,” she said with a laugh.
“I like to be in constant dialogue between two worlds and two cultures. I try to get the best of both, respecting the Dior heritage and pushing it forward. I learned a lot during these six years at Dior and you think you know a country or a culture, but living and breathing a culture is something else, you better understand yourself and your own references,” she said. concluded.