It seems a bit daft that, in 2020, the presence of a female designer at a major label should still be seen as something exceptional. But a look at the current fashion landscape finds comparatively few female creatives at the top. Even Mrs Prada – for so long a torchbearer for the feminists in fashion – has nominated a male designer, Raf Simons, to work alongside her at the brand.
When Maria Grazia Chiuri was appointed creative director of Dior womenswear in 2016, she became the first woman to lead the house in its near 70 years. Immediately, she stamped her agenda onto the fabric of her vision – her first look for the house featured a T-shirt that read “We should all be feminists”. But it is for another point of view that we have featured her this week. Despite the fact that she works for one of France’s most prestigious fashion houses, with its refined Gallic sensibilities and Parisian élan, I have enjoyed watching Chiuri usher in a new spirit at Dior drawing on her Italian DNA. Chiuri was born in Rome and her personality, aesthetic and energy remain aligned with the city she grew up in, where she still keeps her family home. It is manifest in her passion for the ateliers, her attention to craftsmanship, and a working practice that is thoroughly hands-on. For “Maria Grazia Chiuri MMXX: the Roman vision at the heart of Dior”, Chiuri invited our travel editor Maria Shollenbarger to her home to discuss her heritage, her relationship with the city and the dolce vita vigour she has brought to the dove-grey corridors of Avenue Montaigne.
Elsewhere, novelist Bella Pollen’s account of her trip to Nicaragua (“Destination Nicaragua: a country on the brink of extraordinary change”) takes us to a country on the brink of massive change. Rich in raw materials, and still feeling the tremors of long periods of political instability, Nicaragua was slowly establishing itself as an alternative tourist destination in Latin America when the pandemic struck. It has since tentatively opened up its borders but, as with so many countries whose cultural riches are a product of its complex socio-economic past, Nicaragua’s future as a travel destination is still fragile. On her multi-stop itinerary to explore its many diverse features, Bella captures brilliantly the sense of a country on the cusp.
In London, and to Cork Street, where the imminent opening of a gallery has set the art scene abuzz (“Saatchi 2.0: an exclusive interview with the next-gen art disrupters”). Phoebe Saatchi Yates and her husband, Arthur Yates, must lack no chutzpah in their decision to open a new space in Mayfair in the midst of a pandemic, but perhaps it’s only natural that the 26-year-old daughter of the former advertising svengali and collector Charles Saatchi might be predisposed to taking risks. In their first interview since announcing their ambitions to be this century’s Leo Castelli, she and Arthur tell Francesca Gavin about their vision for the future, and why they’re planning to create a sensation of their own.
And lastly, I would be neglectful if I failed to mention undercrackers. Or boxer shorts, in fact. When I was approached by the luxury loungewear-maker Hamilton and Hare to see if an HTSI contributor might trial a service in made-to-measure boxers, I immediately knew the right man for the job. In “Bespoke boxer shorts: the ultimate indulgence, or just a load of pants?”, Alex Bilmes, the editor-in-chief of UK Esquire magazine, gets sized up for a year’s worth of undergarments in a range of fabrications tailored to his “individual body shape”. It’s the kind of indulgence that tends to infuriate our less sympathetic readers. But Alex’s description of being fitted – in a record heatwave, by a tailor in a face-protecting visor – is so outlandishly ridiculous, it made me laugh and laugh. Made-to-measure boxer shorts are not likely to lead one to enlightenment. But I will always have the highest admiration for a gentleman who takes some pride in his pants.