A Dior Designer and an Artist on Finding Creative Sisterhood

When the creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri threw the brand’s support behind Zadie Xa’s work, “I understood her immediately as another cultural worker,” Xa says. “She listens in a way that lots of people in positions of power don’t.”

Article by Laura May Todd

Maria Grazia Chiuri_Zadie XaFrom left: Chiuri, 59, creative director of women’s wear and accessories, Dior, and Xa, 39, interdisciplinary artist, photographed at the Dior headquarters in the Eighth Arrondissement of Paris on December 12, 2022. Both wear Dior clothing. Photograph by Hannah Starkey.

Maria Grazia Chiuri:

My love for art is very personal. When I see something that strikes me, I try to meet the person who made it. I may not have a degree in art history, but I love going to exhibitions. And when I choose artists to collaborate with, I rely on my instincts. Too often, women, especially of my generation, don’t have the courage to follow their gut. That’s always a big mistake. 

I first saw Zadie’s work at the 2019 Venice Biennale [where Xa staged “Grandmother Mago”, a performance that included ancestral drumming, dance, traditional Korean-inspired costumes and orca masks]. I was struck by her use of textiles and by the spiritual aspect of her fictional narratives. When I learned that she was doing a show at London’s Whitechapel Gallery [“Zadie Xa: House Gods, Animal Guides and Five Ways 2 Forgiveness”, a 2022 exhibition of sculptures and paintings], I wanted Dior to support it.

I’m interested in feminist art because it makes me think about my own work. Through art, which touches on topics that extend further than fashion, I can reflect more clearly on what I do. And yet genius is still considered a male trait. That’s why we create sisterhood. 

Zadie Xa:

Fashion runs parallel to the art world, but it’s always seemed shinier and sexier and a little scary. I don’t make art with mass-market appeal, so it was surprising when Maria Grazia contacted me. I understood her immediately as another cultural worker — she listens in a way that lots of people in positions of power don’t. 

She put herself behind my exhibition. To say, as a creative director, “We’re going to support this public exhibition that has nothing to do with us just because we want to,” knowing that the brand drives a certain level of attention — it was an incredibly generous decision. 

In art school, they tell you to network. I was always like, “What are you talking about?” Now, though, I look at other artists who’ve supported me — all the success I’ve had is because of them. All the opportunities I’ve been given were because of curator friends or other artists recommending my work. It’s almost overwhelming to think about.