The inside story behind Dior’s newest runway set design


A 500 meter runway, 400 lights, 200 fireworks and 55 musicians. You’d think these numbers reflect every breathtaking element that made Dior’s newest cruise show – in Athens, Greece – a success. In doing so, however, one would overlook the artistic focus, which was the fitting focal point of the stage design. This visual effort may originally have come from the mind of creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, but it was the Roman artist Pietro Ruffo who helped bring it to life in a truthful and detailed manner.

Ruffo, a recent employee of Chiuri, has been making monumental works from precisely cut paper elements for years. The duality of his works, which harmonize large-format end results with small, carefully worked out details, naturally fits into Chiuri’s previous Dior oeuvre. After all, with relatively uniform silhouettes, the designer has designed one collection after the other, which uses magnificent embroidery, floral applications and more.

Ruffo’s main contribution to the set design for this show was 72 large format flags. Fluttering on the crown of the Panathenaic Stadium, each finished textile product was just as daring in its monolithic form as it was mesmerizing in its surface patterns. For starters, the flags featured caryatids, female pillars most commonly associated with the Erechtheion of the nearby Acropolis. All flags were also shown in a polychromatic color scheme that was typical of ancient times. (Unfortunately, bright colors have not proven their worth, nor have their robust marble substructures.)

The complete stadium backdrop for the Dior Cruise 2022 show.

Photo: George Messaritakis

For Ruffo, the location of this edition of the touring cruise show is particularly significant. “Greece is really fundamental to me – the purity, the reality,” explains the artist, referring to his training as an architect. Today, Ruffo’s work also often depends on studying different places and is known to use maps in his own practices.

During the entire process, no detail was too small to be overlooked. For example, the number of flags should be equal to 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 premieres. After landing in Greece, Ruffo met Chiuri at the inspiring Museum of Cycladic Art. Notably, one of his prints also appeared in the collection’s sportswear ensembles, and he took part in one of Chiuri’s final preparations. However, Ruffo admits that the set design only narrowly averted a potential disaster: just days before the show, a storm broke and ruffled the flags, which luckily could be repaired. “Everything was just wonderful,” says Ruffo.

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