Christian Dior, an avant-garde designer

  • Le tailleur Bar

    Le tailleur Bar

    © Christian Dior - DR

  • Dior Museum in Normandy

    Dior Museum in Normandy

    © istock_Falombini

Christian Dior, an avant-garde designer

Dior was created out of its founder’s desire to encourage women to take care of themselves, to look attractive and to grow in self-confidence. The company enjoyed immediate success and Dior has since become an iconic brand across the globe.


Youth

Born in 1905 in Granville, Normandy, Christian Dior moved to Paris in 1910 where he struck up a friendship with several artists during the Roaring Twenties, notably Jean Cocteau.

Towards the end of the 1920s, Dior opened an art gallery where he exhibited the surrealist painting by Dali, The Persistence of Memory, also known as The Melting Clocks.

A hugely talented drawer, Dior sold his first dress and hat designs in 1935, and was employed as an illustrator. He later created costumes for cinema and theatre and had some of his sketches accepted by Nina Ricci, Balenciaga and Schiaparelli, before finally being taken on as a designer.

 

The house and style of Dior

A former assistant to Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior founded his own haute-couture company in 1946 and opened his first shop at 30, avenue Montaigne, an address which has now taken on legendary status.

In February 1947, he presented his first collection, Corolle. Freeing themselves from the restrictions of the war, designs returned to a nostalgic femininity which was reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties. The avant-garde designer created a new style with a belted waist, high chest, delicate shoulders and wide, mid-calf skirts, and Avenue Montaigne saw the arrival of a new woman as imagined by Christian Dior. For his collection, he created the “flower-woman”, inspired by the garden of his childhood and by his mother’s elegance.

This style was hugely successful with fashion critics of the time, including the chief editor of Harper’s Bazaar who gave it the nickname The New Look. Christian Dior gave French haute couture international prestige once again.

At the height of his success after his “fuseau” collection, Christian Dior died in 1957.

Yves Saint Laurent took over at the helm of the company and his first collection was a huge success. However, he was called up by the army and had to hand over the reins to Marc Bohan, who remained as artistic director until 1989, when Gianfranco Ferré became head of women’s fashion.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the company appointed couturier John Galliano as artistic director of women’s fashion. In 1998, Victoire de Castellane founded the Haute Joaillerie department, while in 2000, Hedi Slimane was appointed as artistic director of the newly created men’s fashion department, and subsequently of the perfume department. This trio revolutionised the world of fashion. In 2012, the Belgian designer Raf Simons was chosen by the Dior company to succeed John Galliano.

Today, the appeal of Dior can be summarised in three words – feminine, elegant and delicate.

The company’s flagship designs, which could almost be described as its DNA, include the New Look, the Bar suit, the dogstooth pattern and bows.

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