Dior staged its Fall 2022 collection at Ewha Womans University on April 30, marking its first-ever runway show in Korea. The university had previously signed a partnership with the luxury fashion house, sharing its core values in female empowerment, ESG, creativity, and innovation. As a part of their partnership with Ewha, Dior opted to perform its fashion show at the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC).
Pietro Beccari, chairman and CEO of Christian Dior Couture, and Dior’s first female creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri came all the way to Seoul to open the show. Along with head office officials, many celebrities including the three brand ambassadors Jisoo of BLACKPINK, Suzy, and Yuna Kim were invited to the runway. This year’s fall runway especially drew attention from the fashion industry as it was a large-scale runway conducted in person after the pandemic.
Sang Mi Cho, head of the Office of International Affairs, expected this fashion show to be an opportunity to globally promote Ewha as the first Korean educational institute for women.
“Most importantly, Ewha’s pursuit of women empowerment, ESG, and innovation is in line with Dior’s core values,” Cho said. “The beautiful structure of the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC), the work of a renowned French architect Dominique Perrault, and its harmony with the other buildings also played a role in choosing Ewha for the runway.”
President Kim Eun-mee had previously expressed her hopes of providing students with global experiences and promoting Ewha’s brand value through this global event. She added that as a part of the prior partnership, students in related majors will be allowed to participate in the process and recycle the subsidiary materials and facilities after the show for sustainability. In order to provide an opportunity to participate on the day of the event, 1,000 students were selected to watch the live stream of the show at the Welch-Ryang Auditorium on a first-come, first-served basis.
At 8p.m., skateboarders marked the beginning of the show, symbolizing teamwork, community, and sisterhood at the collection’s heart. A group of local female skateboarders effortlessly rode the smooth, wooden skatepark-style set at ECC. After their lively display, models wearing individualistic appropriations of school uniforms, sportswear, masculine fabrics, and Dior gray walked down the wooden set with spotlight shining on them amid the complete darkness.
This year’s Fall 2022 ready-to-wear collection was the appropriation of typically masculine codes for the women’s wear. Under the Dior family business motto Strength Through Unity, the collection showcased self-expression and individualistic appropriations in fashion, highlighting how strength lies in community and collaboration.
The runway show was simultaneously available online and in boutiques. On the day of the show, Ewha students from diverse majors gathered to watch the live stream at the Welch-Ryang Auditorium.
Sim Chae-yeon, a sophomore majoring in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, was satisfied with the quality of the live stream and had a great time getting together with other students to watch the runway show. It was an especially a meaningful experience for her as it has been a long time since she has been with so many students since the outbreak of the pandemic.
When asked if there is anything she wants from the school and Dior as a part of their partnership, she responded that they should continue to head towards the same goal.
“Dior chose to sign a partnership with our school because we share common values. I hope they never forget the reason for our partnership and never cease to pursue these goals even in the future.”
Besides Ewha students, those from other universities also came to watch the runway show.
Such was the case for Kunnitha, an exchange student majoring in Business Administration at Hanyang University ERICA Campus, who had sent an email to Dior hoping to take part in the show.
“I did not expect Dior to respond to my request, but fortunately, I received a positive response from the house” she said. “I was invited to help with the rehearsal and watch the live stream of the runway show with other Ewha students.”
Over the last 136 years, Ewha has been a pioneer in education, producing female leaders in diverse fields. Its potential has again been proven through partnership with Dior, a globally renowned luxury fashion house, and will continue to be at the forefront of change.
Conversation with Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and President Kim Eun-mee
On May 1, Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director at Dior, and President Kim Eun-mee held talks on women’s leadership and the fashion industry at the Emerson Chapel in the Graduate School Building. Professor Sohn Jie-ae, invited professor at the Graduate School of International Studies and former CNN Bureau Chief for Seoul, moderated the discussion between the two leaders.
Chiuri entered the chapel wearing an Ewha green varsity jacket, greeted by students from fashion-related majors and some selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Professor Sohn started the conversation with words of appreciation to Chiuri for organizing the event for the students.
Sohn: This occasion came about because of the common recognition of both historic institutions on nurturing and empowering young women to become strong and wonderful leaders of tomorrow. The two guests are here to hold a special dialogue with the students and share their views. First off, Dior’s fashion show was held yesterday here at Ewha. What was the characteristic of this year’s fall collection?
Chiuri: I wanted to show that you can choose the clothes in your personal way to express yourself. I do not want to impose uniformity. Although it is important in creating sense of community, it is also crucial to personalize fashion with your own style.
Sohn: So, it is characteristic within unity. For Ewha, this is the first time in our 136-year history that we have had a fashion show. What did you, President Kim, think of yesterday’s event?
Kim: There were several meanings to the collaboration with the house of Dior. First, this was the first meaningful public event that we have held since the pandemic began. The second is the feeling of youth, energy, and enthusiasm. It was meaningful how Dior respected Ewha’s history as an educational institute for women empowerment. Finally, I thought this event was really environmentally sustainable, using lots of natural materials such as wood. The final request I made before I decided was to make it in line with sustainable development.
Sohn: It did feel very natural in terms of the color and material. It was not overly done in any way. I was surprised to introduce you, Ms. Chiuri, as the first female creative director of Dior. Thinking that it is the fashion industry, that it is about women and what they wear, how did the 6 years of pioneering that position change you?
Chiuri: When I came to Dior, I was really honored to be the first woman in the house in its long history. But, at the same time, I was surprised how unusual it was for a woman to arrive at this position in the fashion industry. This is the reality.
Sohn: Being a female leader opens the way for other possible female leaders to see that it can be achieved. We, at Ewha, have had our share of wonderful female leaders come and talk to our students. Do you think this has a role in influencing and empowering the students?
Kim: I think showcasing female leaders around the world is important for students to see with their own eyes that they are capable of doing anything if they put their heart into it. But I also think that even if you do not see role models in a particular field that you want to go into, it should not discourage you. You should have faith in yourself, and institutions such as Ewha will do our best to make sure you become a leader in any new field. Ewha was founded when no education was available for women. That is our history. If you are waiting for the signal for the first one to appear, that would be too late.
Sohn: Even if you do not see other women in front of you, right? The world that I would like everyone to live in is to be able to head into an area and follow your passion, whether you are male or female. We have a little more way to go, but we are changing. For students hoping to enter the fashion industry, what do they need to know about the industry, and is it different from when you started your career?
Chiuri: Yes, I definitely think it is different. The whole industry is now very conscious, for example. We produce only what we sell, instead of producing more, to reduce waste. I think that is the new conscious in fashion, only producing the necessary piece, not when I was at school, to really know more about all the arguments that are important today.
Sohn: There is a certain part of high fashion that has always been very environmentally friendly because you do not waste anything. I guess the call today is that you heighten your understanding, that you have to be environmentally friendly and sustainable in terms of your work. President Kim, that is something very dear to your heart, and the sustainable development goals have been something you were passionate about. From your point of view, what role would you want the fashion industry to play in creating a sustainable world?
Kim: I think the producing stage of the fashion industry is critical, where you source your material in a socially just way. We should not push for excessive consumption so as not to put waste back into the environment, or else the earth cannot sustain.
Sohn: There are ways we can express individuality and values through fashion. On social media, we can see people expressing their views on climate change, environmental, and human rights. How has that changed the fashion industry?
Chiuri: I think all the arguments present today are a reality. We should not forget that fashion is community work, production, communication, marketing - the whole system. By working together, I believe we can make a change.
Sohn: Fashion is very visual, in touch with the reality we live in, much more than other industries.
Chiuri: Yes, we should not forget that fashion is something popular. At the same time, it is difficult to explain the complexity behind this industry. It is not a simple process. We try to go on media to explain what there is behind. Sometimes the risk is that you will only see the fashion show, that is the head of the work. So, I think it is important to show the people that work behind, including me, in different categories.
Sohn: You have previously signed a MOU with our university and actually came to Korea, and Ewha. What do you see in the future of the collaboration between Ewha and Dior?
Chiuri: Students from other universities that we collaborate with in France and Italy seemed to have realized that in fashion, there are many different jobs. I hope this collaboration can help students know and decide what kind of work they want to do in fashion. There are so many different fields in our system. I am sure that the experience in the stage for six months and mentoring from people with expertise can help the young generation understand more.
Sohn: So, the goal is to understand the complexity of an industry that is so much more than the sketch. This is a unique opportunity for you, too, President Kim. What would you want our students to get out of this kind of relationship?
Kim: I want our students to gain more comprehensive understanding and experience about the brands in the fashion industry. It would give them a realistic look at what a global brand like Dior does in the name of fashion, all the different components that go into that. But I also want this to be an opportunity for our students to go global. Korea is a very small country. I want them to feel that they can go anywhere in the world to work. This experience at Dior would give them opportunity to go abroad, to France, and work with a global company to gain global experience for 6 months. They can come back to Ewha to learn more and be prepared, but they can pursue their dreams in a different country.
When students ask me how they should decide what they want to do, I tell them that if something keeps you up at night, you can take that path because you are that passionate about it. But the second thing is being prepared to fulfill that dream. Ewha and Dior will make sure to back you up, and learning what you actually do at a brand will be a great start.
Chiuri: I think what President Kim said is very important, to think longer and listen to experiences. For me, it was important to move to Paris, where I learned a different way to work in fashion. Sometimes, there is the idea that fashion is same anywhere in the world, but it is not true. France is different from Italian companies. It gave me a completely new vision about my work. I was also impressed with the differences in Korea too. Stores in Seoul designed by local designers were fantastic, and I want to come back to work again.
Kim: I think bringing your creativity from Italy was a good force of energy. Having diverse cases really makes experience at global brands like Dior exciting. If it was 100 percent French all the way through, we may not feel that we can participate. But having citizens around the world gives us hope that we can be part of Dior. You also make Dior refreshing, different and new.
The discussion ended with some additional questions from students. Throughout her answers, Chiuri expressed her belief in community and education. She wants other women that collaborate with her to be able to express themselves is their own unique way and have different voices. She also believes Korea has become a country of great importance and would like to come back again.
When Chiuri started working in the fashion industry, there were few women, so not many references were available. However, she has now become the first creative director of a major fashion house and is paving the way for other young women to follow suit, with the vision of women empowerment.
The three female leaders who led the discussion were the pioneers in their own field. Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female creative director at Dior; President Kim Eun-mee, the first female independent director of the board at Samsung Electronics; and Professor Sohn Jie-ae, the first CNN Bureau Chief for Seoul and the youngest Arirang International Broadcasting CEO. Their endless efforts have led them to the positions they are in now, and together they encourage Ewha students to be future leaders in their own fields.