If one thing has defined the tenure of Dior’s Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri, it’s that the future is indeed female.
At its latest show in Mexico City, the French luxury house showcased a collection heavily inspired by culturally relevant female artists like Frida Kahlo, Leonara Carrington, Remedios Varo and Tina Modotti, incorporating the craftsmanship of local Mexican women, with symbolic butterfly motifs to signal rebirth, making it one of the most poetic and moving shows of the past few years.
Even as the rain kept falling, the atmospheric setting of Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, where Kahlo studied and met her lover Diego Rivera, added to the magic and the emotion experienced by all as Chiuri once again, brought together Dior’s history with Mexico with the future of what the brand represents: the empowerment of women through fashion, beauty, culture and art.
This messaging around highlighting the experience of the woman, for a woman, has become the brand’s mantra over the past few years, which this year has been delivered through collaborations with female artists like Joana Vasconcelos for its autumn/winter 2024 show, creative partnerships with Chanakya Atelier and Chanakya School of Craft which is managed by Karishma Swali who works with Indian women developing their excellence in embroideries (a job mostly done by men, in the country) for its autumn 2023 in Mumbai and of course, it’s most recent in Mexico City, which saw Dior work with multiple indigenous communities.
Every step since Chiuri’s appointment, in terms of the themes picked, the artists or craftsmanship houses collaborated with, is steeped in Dior’s message of the female experience and reflected back by its loyal customers who connect and engage with it.
And in a world where the majority of leading luxury brands are led by male creative directors and male CEOs, the combination of Maria Grazia Chiuri and the recently appointed CEO Delphine Arnault as the leaders of such a brand makes for a heady and powerful duo that only adds to its brand messaging.
Brand messaging is something that many can struggle to get right, especially when the goalposts are constantly shifting and evolving. But Dior manages to ensure that what it says about itself and its values is incorporated into every detail of its products, image, retail presence and communications.
Great brand messaging comes from many different things. It comes from having a strong, clear and consistent brand message and a precisely targeted customer engaged through constant cultural conversation. It also comes from creating a physical brand universe that is enhanced through the most relevant touchpoints, as well as an arresting visual identity that is spread through its product, visual merchandising, events and content - giving it a competitive advantage, which all results in creating a brand so strong that all that is needed in terms of communication is just the brand itself.
Indeed, it seems that the stronger the message, the most powerful the brand is in the long term, and Dior’s example sets the pace for the industry and for its competitors in terms of value proposition and highlights the key pillars of a great brand strategy.
However, it is important to note that there may also be a cost with such success. Let us not forget the burden faced by Chiuri’s predecessor Raf Simons, who ultimately decided to leave the brand.
Many in the industry wonder if it is truly necessary to put such enormous pressure on four mega-shows in a row (Pret-à-Porter and Haute Couture in Paris, Fall 2023 in Mumbai and Cruise 2024 in Mexico City) on a brand and, especially, on a very successful designer? Why deplete so much creativity in just five months? Will Chiuri resist the siren's song coming from Rome?
There is so much to be learned from Dior’s example of brand messaging. And it is certainly true that for Dior, the brand is the message. But is this message going to last forever, or does it risk, once again, burnout?