Pietro Beccari on Dior, DNA and digital
today May 2, 2019
If any senior LVMH executive is looking very smart these days it surely is Pietro Beccari, the CEO of Christian Dior Couture, who just oversaw his house’s path-breaking cruise 2020 collection runway show in Marrakech - a fashionable and cultural linking of Europe and Africa.
The show was the latest event staged by Dior at a great distance from its base in Paris’ tony 8th arrondissement. Last month, the house’s women’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, presented Dior’s first show in Dubai, showing an additional range of couture looks, edited for local Gulf tastes.
In November, Dior’s menswear designer Kim Jones – whom Beccari appointed – showed Dior Men’s pre-collection on a runway for the first time. The location? Tokyo, with the centerpiece a giant feline robot; in the audience David Beckham and Kate Moss.
On damp Monday night when a downpour almost miraculously held off until just after Chiuri took her bow, the designer triumphed with her latest cruise show, which combined African wax painting, Maasai motifs, Yoruba headgear and traditional local beading. Each guest’s seat markers were even made in Atlas mountain clay pottery, a technique that dates back 6,000 years.
“How many other European designers have ever shown here in Marrakech? None! Which is incredible when you think about it, since several even own homes in this great city. But we did it!” marveled Beccari, after enjoying drinks with actress Jessica Alba following a post-show concert by Diana Ross.
The Italian-born Beccari joined Dior from his position as CEO of Fendi, where he was famous for using “brand power” to drive that Roman house’s business. Most notably, developing the whole series of Fendi’s fur gadgets, including the Karlito bag charm, after the late great Karl Lagerfeld, that house's creative director. An idea that boosted revenue by tens of millions of euros annually.
Under his tenure at Dior, the house is a hive of activity.
“This year is extremely rich in terms of events and various artistic collaborations that reinvent Dior codes and heritage with ever more creativity. The Cruise collection show in Marrakech prolongs and reinforces this dynamism even more,” said Beccari, who joined Dior in November 2017.
A famed workaholic, Beccari nevertheless rarely seems flustered. Though his body language always suggests a wound-up spring, even when relaxing after a great show inside the massive El Badi fortress, in ancient Marrakech.
“Morocco has always had an important place in the House’s history: Dior has two boutiques here, one in Casablanca and the other in Marrakech, inside the famed La Mamounia hotel,” says Beccari, referring to Winston Churchill’s favorite hotel, where scores of editors were billeted during Dior’s Moroccan fashion caravanserai.
“Christian Dior himself initiated this special friendship by collaborating with the Maison Joste in Casablanca. This experiment resulted, in 1951, in the dual label 'Christian Dior – Joste – Exclusivité au Maroc' and continued through the 1970s,” notes Beccari.
Indeed, like his fellow Italian Chiuri, Beccari always focuses on his brand’s heritage even as he demands that each of his designers reinvent and even subvert its DNA.
“In choosing Marrakech, Maria Grazia Chiuri wished to celebrate that heritage – as her predecessors, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, and of course Yves Saint Laurent did in their time – but she also wanted to pay homage to the wonderful Moroccan savoir-faire that has always fascinated her. In that spirit, she collaborated with association Sumano on a coat for the collection – an exclusive piece woven and painted by hand by artisans who pass down this tradition from mother to daughter. Sumano also designed certain elements for the show’s scenography, notably cushions with artisanal weaves painted with henna. The House of Dior is very proud to be able to promote this age-old tradition in turn,” added the CEO, sitting on the dense seat cushions.
The cruise 2020 collection’s key material was double-faced wax-printed cotton, made at the Uniwax printing plant in the Ivory Coast, one of many hookups with local designers, artisans and artists.
“In deliberately multiplying artistic collaborations and inspirations both geographic and historic, from Marrakech to Abidjan, this collection follows a single path – that of plurality, in the name of freedom and respect for all cultures. The North African country of Morocco is the symbolic meeting point between Europe and Africa, which allowed Maria Grazia Chiuri to dialogue with different cultures, and to establish a collaboration with the Uniwax. Together, we were able to create a special edition based on 100% African Wax, with cottons grown, spun and printed in Africa. Our House is pleased, and very honored, to promote this magnificent project, and chains of virtuous values that let the continent shine,” said the 51-year-old Beccari.
The Dior CEO first grabbed attention as executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, dreaming up the journeys ad campaigns that featured Diego Maradona and Buzz Aldrin among others.
While there he was the effective boss of Antoine Arnault, eldest son of Bernard Arnault, the French multi-billionaire who controls LVMH, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, and owner of Dior.
“I’m an Arnault sandwich. I report to one Arnault, and another one reports to me!” Beccari used to joke at the time.
Ever since Bernard Arnault folded Christian Dior Couture – which encompasses couture, ready-to-wear and accessories, but not fragrances and beauty – into LVMH, the famed fashion house does not publish annual revenue figures. Though it is estimated to be approaching two billion euros.
While legendarily dynamic, like many CEOs within the luxury behemoth, Beccari has been cautious about dashing into luxury e-tailing with Dior. One can buy few Dior products directly from the house’s own website. Nonetheless, Dior has certainly changed gears when it comes to the digital realm.
“It’s been an important year in terms of accelerating e-commerce developments. We launched in the US market with far better results than expected, and plan to roll out to more countries. We are already present in most markets in Europe and South Korea,” cautioned Beccari.
“The brand currently has an incredible appeal, which is strongly echoed in engagement on our social platforms, especially Instagram,” said Beccari of Dior, which has has 24.9 million followers on Instagram.
“Now we're mature on most of the major platforms, but there are still many new platforms to conquer following the launch of Douyin (China), Pinterest, and the augmented reality filter on Instagram, and there are lots more to come,” he concluded.
So, stay tuned for more developments.
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