Enjoying every moment of our autumn in Paris, we had the privilege of being invited to a private visit of the exhibition celebrating the House of Dior’s 70th anniversary. With the lavish museum rooms all to ourselves, we learnt how Christian Dior and the six illustious artistic directors who followed on his heels – Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri – devised the brand and built up the influence of a name that is the very embodiment of haute couture in France and throughout the world.
DIOR: SIX ILLUSTRIOUS ARTISTIC DIRECTORS
“True luxury needs good materials and good workmanship; it will never succeed unless its roots are profoundly embedded in sober influences and honest traditions.” Christian Dior
Christian Dior became a leading figure in the world of 20th-century fashion when he launched his New Look collection in 1947. He took the feminine shape in a totally new direction, relegating the masculine silhouette of the war years to the past. His dresses expressed a modern femininity characterised by flowing curves.
“I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body.” Christian Dior
He succeeded in breathing new life into the couture tradition, giving a central role to embroiderers and craftspeople by making costume jewellery and accessories. He invented an internationally-focused couture that put Paris back in the spotlight as the capital of fashion.
After his death in 1957, the daring choice of the very young Yves Saint Laurent, then only 21, to take over the House of Dior was followed by Marc Bohan’s more rational appointment. Next came the flamboyant arrival of Gianfranco Ferré, the dramatic era of fashion punk John Galliano, the minimalist statement of Raf Simons’ appointment and, lastly, the choice of a woman, Maria Grazia Chiuri, and her feminist vision of fashion.
DIOR AND THE ART WORLD
Before turning to fashion, Christian Dior ran an art gallery. When the House of Dior was created in 1947, Christian Dior paid tribute to the established and up-and-coming artists whose work he used to exhibit in his galleries by designing dresses inspired by Picasso, Braque and Bérard.
This close relationship to the art world has always marked the history of the House of Dior. It forms part of Christian Dior’s legacy to his successors, as illustrated by Marc Bohan’s new take on Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings for his 1984 collection, and Gianfranco Ferré’s 1995 couture interpretation of Cézanne’s Harlequin character. John Galliano’s time at Dior abounded in artistic references : the British designer liked to explore Surrealism and the ties of friendship that bound Dior to Dalí and Jean Cocteau. Raf Simons also explored contemporary art through his collaboration with American artists Sterling Ruby and Agnes Martin.
DIOR AND THE SILVER SCREEN
Right from when it first opened its doors, the House of Dior has always been a favorite of the goddesses of the silver screen, winning them over with bold and graceful designs that bolster their star status.
Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich and Olivia de Havilland very quickly chose Christian Dior as the couturier who could best convey the Hollywood dream. The Dior creations form the different facets of magnificent femininity, embodied on red carpets right round the world by Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Isabelle Adjani, Monica Bellucci and Sharon Stone.
“After women, flowers are the most divine of creations.” Christian Dior
The decidedly modern House of Dior also dresses the younger generation of actresses, who serve as the new faces of Dior: Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marion Cotillard, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, Rihanna and Felicity Jones.
The House of Dior’s close relationship with the movie world is also illustrated by the hundred or so films it features in, made by famous directors such as Luis Buñuel, Stanley Donen, Terence Young, Jean-Luc Godard, Charlie Chaplin, François Truffaut, Costa-Gavras, Claude Lelouch, Pedro Almodovar and Woody Allen.
“Dior, this nimble genius unique to our age, whose magical name combines God and gold : Dieu et or.” Jean Cocteau
Christian Dior, couturier du rêve | Jusqu’au 7 janvier 2018 | Musée des Arts Décoratifs | Paris | France | dior.com/the-house-of-dior
Christian Dior | 30, Avenue Montaigne | 75008 Paris | France | dior.com