“Happiness is the secret to all beauty. There is no beauty without happiness”.
When someone mentions the name Dior, haute-couture and luxury are what comes in mind. One of the biggest couturier’s of 20th century, Christian Dior took over the fashion world with its innovative and feminine approaches during post-war period.
Christian Dior thought of breathing innovation into the world after years of war and suffering. He sought after new opportunities to rebuild fashion world after the World War II, when France was left with destroyed food and clothing industries. Dior wanted to make women happy by designing “flower women with soft shoulders, blossoming bosoms, waists as slender as creepers and skirts as wide as corollas”.
He reintroduced femininity and shifted focus on luxury in women’s fashion. With his debut collection in 1947, Dior changed the rules of elegance not only in France, but around the world. The tremendous success of the collection, due to both his designs and business practices, made him style dictator around the glove, resulting in his designs to be worn by many celebrities, movie stars and royalties.
Dior re-establish Paris as the fashion capital and secured its place in international fashion. Dior was also known to be very superstitious: each collection had a piece named after his hometown – Granville, one of the models should wear his favorite flower – lily, and he always consulted a tarot-card reader before the shows.
Born in 1905 in Granville in a successful manufacturing fertilizer’s family, young Christian Dior moved to Paris when he was five. He dimmed his parents’ wish of him becoming a diplomat and opened a gallery, which was afterwards closed due to the tragic death of Dior’s mother and brother. He began selling fashion sketches to meet ends and after serving in military, in 1942 he was hired by designer Lucien Lelong to dress the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators. Later in 1946, he received financial assistance from Marcel Boussac – owner of a fashion house, and started his own empire with his 85 employees in a grey and white mansion, which were Dior’s favorite colors.
After the strict-shouldered war suits, Dior wanted to give women more feminine looks, with tiny waists, accentuated hips and emphasized busts. He wanted to ‘construct’ the dresses, molded on the curves of the female body whose contours they would stylize. In 1947, Christian Dior started a new fashion era with his revolutionary New Look collection, which included 90 different looks. The lines originally called “Corolle” and “Huite” were given the name “New Look” by a Reuterz correspondent who overheard the Editor-In-Chief of Haarper’s Bazaar Carmel Snow addressing Dior with the following phrase: “It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!”
Bettina Ballard, Fashion Editor at Vogue in 1947, who spent 15 years covering French fashion and deciding it was heading to a dead-end, said about Dior: “We have witnessed a revolution in Fashion at the same time as a revolution of showing fashion”.
Each dress in the collection was made using on average 18m of fabric, which was criticized because of the post-war fabric restrictions. The “New Look” consisted of full skirt and waistband, accentuated fuller bust and was inspired by the body-shaping styles of late 19th century.
The most iconic model in the collection, “The Bar Suit” with its cream coat and black pleated skirt was considered a signature piece that elegantly followed the curves of a woman body.
In November, 1948 Dior founded Dior House on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York, which was the first of its kind. Same year he announced the launch of first fragrance – Miss Dior – named after his sister Catherine.
In 1949, Dior realized that the “New Look” cannot be completed without the right accessories- hat, gloves and slender shoes – in contrast to the square-toed with wedged heel ones. Together with his business partner Jacques Rouet, he began designing luxury accessories, starting with ties and then furs and stockings. Although the French Chamber of Couture criticized Dior for “cheapening” high-fashion, Dior considered this move very profitable for the company worldwide and it was matter of time until all other fashion houses followed the same step.
Christian Dior never stopped believing in his dreams and his unique vision for fashion earned him a worldwide fame. He was the first to launch a fragrance and to establish its name across a various range of products – cosmetics, accessories, perfumes and furs.
As a praised couture house, Dior attracted many young talents. Pierre Cardin was hired as the “leading man” at House Dior in 1947 and worked there for three years. In 1955, Christian Dior chose 19 year-old Yves Saint-Laurent as his one and only assistant, who created his first collection for Dior in 1958 – designing 35 outfits for Autumn collection, a year after the death of Christian Dior. Yves Saint-Lauren’s designs were becoming more and more risky with time and when in 1960, he was replaced by Marc Bohan, Dior house was not that disappointed. In 1989, Gianfranco Ferre took the role of the Head of Design and was first non-french designer in the history of Dior. In 1997, John Galliano, who won the admiration of Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour, became the new creative director of the House of Dior until 2012, when he was replaced by Raf Simons.
Nowadays, Maria Grazia Chiuri, former Valentino designer, is in charge of the Dior design. She is the first female head designer in Dior’s history and her new feminist looks are very popular and relevant in our days.