The Inside Story Behind Dior’s Latest Runway Set Design

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A 500-meter-long runway, 400 lights, 200 fireworks, and 55 musicians. One might think that those numbers capture every stunning element that made Dior’s latest cruise show—located in Athens, Greece—a success. And yet, to do so would be to overlook the artistic focus that was the set design’s fitting linchpin. That visual effort may have first stemmed from the mind of creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, but it was Roman artist Pietro Ruffo who helped bring it to true, detail-oriented, life.

Ruffo, a more recent collaborator of Chiuri, has been making monumental works out of precise cut-paper elements for years. The duality of his works—which balance large-scale final results with small, carefully wrought details, naturally dovetails with Chiuri’s Dior oeuvre thus far. After all, while sticking with relatively consistent silhouettes, the designer has produced collection after collection that make excellent use of magnificent embroidery, floral appliqués, and more.

Ruffo’s principle contribution to the set design for this show was 72 large-scale flags. Fluttering atop the crown of the Panathenaic Stadium, each final textile product was as bold in its monolithic shape as it was mesmerizing in its surface patterns. For starters, the flags depicted caryatids, female-shaped columns most commonly associated with the Erechtheion of the nearby Acropolis. All the flags were also rendered in a polychromatic color scheme that was typical of the ancient world. (Colorful paints have, unfortunately, not stood the test of time, nor have their sturdy marble understructures.)

The full stadium setting for the Dior Cruise 2022 show.

For Ruffo, the location of this edition of the peripatetic cruise show is especially meaningful. “Greece is really fundamental for me—the pureness, the reality,” explains the artist, referencing his initial training as an architect. Today, Ruffo’s work also often hinges on the study of different places, and he has been known to involve the use of maps in his own practices.

Throughout the entire process, no detail was too small to overlook. For example, the number of flags was meant to correspond with the number of amphorae that the winner of past ancient games traditionally received. (Interestingly, the Panathenaic Stadium was also the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.)

The experience was also filled with creative firsts. After touching down in Greece, Ruffo met Chiuri at the inspiring Museum of Cycladic Art. Notably, a print of his also appeared in the sportswear ensembles of the collection, and he sat in on one of Chiuri’s final preparatory fittings. Ruffo admits, though, that when it came to the set design, one potential disaster was narrowly averted: Just days before the show, a storm blew in and seriously ruffled the flags, which were, luckily, able to be fixed. In the end, Ruffo reflects, “Everything was just wonderful.”

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