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Apparel and accessories

Dior grants inside look at creative transition to highlight unchanging savoir faire

February 17, 2017

Inside Dior's atelier before its spring/summer 2017 show Inside Dior's atelier before its spring/summer 2017 show


French couture house Christian Dior is taking consumers behind-the-scenes of its atelier, using documentary-style content to acquaint its community with its inner workings under newly installed creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.

The label’s online content hub DiorMag is providing a closer look at the designer’s debut couture collection, while Dior gave a camera crew access during the preparations for Ms. Chiuri’s first runway show, with the resulting footage running as a two-part event on Britain’s Channel 4. Letting consumers in during this transition period will help make the switch at the top more seamless.

"As the brand pushes forward, it is prudent to prepare the consumers for what is coming," said Thomaï Serdari, Ph.D., founder of PIQLuxury, co-editor of Luxury: History Culture Consumption and adjunct professor of luxury marketing at New York University, New York.

"The press, experts and other fashion critics will have an easier time connecting with the new product and the brand's new direction if they have already taken a look at what is happening while Dior is going through this transition," she said. "Additionally, the public needs to be informed and reassured that the brand codes remain in place and that the Dior dream is being reworked with a 'new type of thread,' so to speak.

"It is fascinating to see how Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior's new creative leadership, draws inspiration from the brand's archives and experiments with processes and materials that can recreate the essence of the original archival piece. The brand is reawakened and allowed to breathe afresh  simply because the people involved in the work that Chiuri directs are deeply involved in the craftsmanship of each garment infusing the textiles with their own spirit through their very gestures."

Ms. Serdari is not affiliated with Dior, but agreed to comment as an industry expert. Dior was reached for comment.

Behind the seams

Ms. Chiuri became Dior’s first female artistic director when she joined the house last July (see story).

A new documentary, titled told in two parts follows the time before the designer’s first runway show at Dior in September.

Part one of “Inside Dior,” which aired Feb. 9, focused on the house’s 70th anniversary celebrations. The second episode delves into the lead-up to the fashion show.

Trailer: Inside Dior

Dior previously opened its doors to documentary filmmakers when its last creative director began at the house. “Dior and I,” which covers the beginning of creative director Raf Simons’ tenure at the house, was screened as the opening film for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 (see story).

"No one is ever tired of the inner workings of luxury brands," Ms. Serdari said. "They continue to fascinate us even though most brands have already produced enough educational material--often to be disseminated online through the brand's Web site.

"The documentary is intended for a wide reach which means that Dior wishes to maintain the bond with segments at both ends of the market: older and younger," she said. "New audiences need to be initiated in the history, processes and codes of the brand."

In addition to its television documentary, Dior is taking consumers behind a more recent event through its online magazine. The label has published a series of posts investigating the craftsmanship that went into Ms. Chiuri's first couture collection for the house, presented in January.

These photo and video stories delve into the history techniques being used by the atelier's artisans as they made the collection. One centers on the inspiration Ms. Chiuri took from Mr. Dior's impressionism, translating it into a Jardin Fleuri dress with tulle covered in feathers that look like flowers.

Dior ss17 couture Jardin

Dior dress in progress for its spring/summer 2017 couture collection

A film touches on the work of the pleaters, documenting their process as they press fabric into accordion shapes through a hands-on process.

Another video looks at the hand painted zodiac signs that graced one of the designs that walked the couture runway. Here, Ms. Chiuri makes an appearance, talking about how couture is one of a kind, with each garment slightly different.

DiorMag also looks at the use of raffia to adorn tulle skirts, finding the craftspeople carefully embroidering the fiber into tulle.

A similar video series followed workers in the atelier before the show, capturing their genuine perspective on preparations.

While Ms. Chiuri is not a main character in these brand-produced films, this shows the atelier buzzing as they bring to life her ideas, allowing consumers to gain a better understanding of who she is as a creative.

New look
Dior has been giving a voice to its lesser known employees through social content.

The label wielded tools that resonate well with modern audiences on Instagram, leading up to its spring/summer 2017 collection reveal.

Dior went behind-the-scenes on Instagram to bring the heart of its brand closer to consumers, with a video series that discusses female role models. Teasing the debut runway show from its first female creative director, the video series takes a look at the women of its atelier as they work on the finishing touches and discuss who their role models are (see story).

Designing for an established brand requires a balancing act of pleasing existing loyal clientele while also reaching out to new audiences, according to the former creative director of Oscar de la Renta.

Speaking at the Financial Times’ Business of Luxury Summit on May 24, Peter Copping likened it to not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, bringing a level of newness to the brand while not straying too far from the pillars established by the label’s eponymous founder (see story).

"Any content produced to ease a transition needs to function on two levels," Ms. Serdari said. "First, brands need to remind their audience of their pillars and code, essential elements that remain unaltered through time on a conceptual level.

"Second, brands need to demonstrate how these conceptual principles are reworked through new talent and new creative leadership in producing pieces that are respectful of the past but very much contemporary," she said.

"Brands that shift their creative strategy aim to bridging the gap between what had been successful but outdated with what is informed of the past but resonates with contemporary culture. This is no small feat. The more the audience understands the methods employed to facilitate this shift the more open they are to the changes that are coming."