Chiuri at Dior targets Millennials with eclectic wardrobe

By Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis PARIS (Reuters) - Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior's first woman designer, on Friday took the fashion brand in a new direction with a maiden eclectic collection aimed at connecting with young consumers and re-invigorating sales. Chiuri, who arrived at Dior in July after two decades at Valentino, put together in five weeks a wardrobe that mixed "sport couture" with street style and fairy tales. "The collection is eclectic just like women are eclectic, they like to mix different things and create their own personal style," Chiuri said after the show. The show opened with all-wite looks featuring quilted cotton fencing plastrons and long, romantic tulle skirts. Later on, models strutted down the runway in biker jackets, long skirts and T-shirts saying "J'adiore," or "We should all be feminists" or "Dior Revolution." "It was a very rich and desirable collection," said former Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz who was sitting next to celebrities such as singer Rihanna, shoe maker Christian Louboutin and France's former first lady Carla Bruni. The show closed with a series of long black and nude tulle dresses with knit lingerie and embroideries of a moon, stars, the devil and the sun. "She has a global vision for the brand," Dior Chief Executive Sidney Toledano told Reuters, adding that he thought Chiuri felt and understood what young consumers wanted. Dior's priority - as for all of its luxury peers - is appealing to the consumers of tomorrow, the so-called Millennials - people born after 1980, who grew up with the Internet and for whom social media is part of their life. According to some analysts, Millennials already represent around half of luxury buyers today. Toledano said Chiuri's spirit was empowering women and nurturing a dialogue with consumers on social media. Right before the show, Chirui posted on Instagram interviews of Dior staff citing which women they admired the most. Dior is the second biggest fashion brand behind Louis Vuitton within the LVMH luxury empire of more than 70 brands and generates more than 5 billion euros($5.62 billion)in annual sales. Dior took nine months to settle on Chiuri after last year's unexpected departure of Raf Simons, now at Calvin Klein. It is expected that Chiuri's power and oversight at Dior will be greater than was Simons.' Unlike Simons, Chiuri will have a say about advertising campaigns, store atmosphere and other aspects of Dior's image. One of Chiuri's strengths is designing leather goods, the biggest business for Dior after perfume and cosmetics and where it makes the bulk of margins. The 52-year-old designer joins at a time when Dior's sales have been hit hard by the global luxury spending downturn and consumers' appetite for smaller, original and less well distributed brands. Dior's couture's profit from recurring operations fell 30 percent in the six months to June 30 to 74 million euros against the same period last year while revenues fell 2 percent to 893 million euros. Annual like-for-like sales growth in the year to June 30 reached 2 percent, down from 10 percent the previous year and 19 percent in 2013-2014. Dior has around 200 boutiques in the world. (Removes extraneous words in para 5) (Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt)