From founder Christian Dior to designer Maria Grazia Chiuri - Dior has become one of the most renowned fashion houses in the world. To celebrate the exhibition "Christian Dior, Couturier Du Rêve" at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, we look at the history of the house and how it has maintained its core values, whilst allowing some of the greatest designers in history to express their creativity.<meta itemprop="datePublished" content="2017-12-18T16:36:07+01:00">
The story began in 1946, when Christian Dior opened his first boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, with investment from industrial entrepreneur Marcel Boussac. The former gallery owner, illustrator and designer did not waste any time - just one year after opening Dior presented his first collection. The launch stormed headlines; Dior introduced a radically new silhouette that couldn’t be further from pre-war fashion. The waist was nipped-in, the bust lifted and the hips emphasised. This was the arrival of the "New Look", as coined by Carmel Snow, renowned editor of Harper’s Bazaar. This label would be forever associated with Dior.
France having suffered from recession and austerity, Christian Dior wanted to give women what they could only have dreamed of during the war. He caused a scandal by making dresses that required no less than 30 metres of fabric and resurrected the status of couture, which he saw as important. His training under couturier Lucien Lelong taught him to pursue projects without worrying about any consequences. His bold creativity from this era helped shape his unique take on fashion, one that women around the world still love to this day, and to which his successors continue to pay tribute.
In 1955, shortly before his death, Christian Dior found his replacement in Yves Saint Laurent, who had the same flair and intuition for which he was renowned. He saw the potential in him to enable his designs live on. Shown in 1957, his first collection Trapèze, was a commercial and critical success – even then, the press were convinced that Saint Laurent had the makings of a great couturier.
From Marc Bohan to Raf Simons via John Galliano, each designer who has since headed up the fashion house, has moved with the times in their own way, but without losing sight of those important elements that have ensured its continued popularity. Marc Bohan gave the Dior woman a sleeker shape with dropped waist dresses and looser silhouettes. Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre favoured exaggerated cuts and all-out exuberance in the early 1990s. In 1996, eight years after it was acquired by LVMH, British designer John Galliano was named Creative Director. This marked the beginning of a commercial golden age for Dior, until the much publicised dismissal of Galliano. The brand quadrupled its turnover. The British designer had returned the great French fashion house to prominence with his spectacular fashion shows and ever more inspired collections, drawing as much upon the maison's archive illustrations as upon British literature, pirate legend and the Victorian era. In 2012, he was replaced by the Belgian designer Raf Simons, who over the course of four years, brought a breath of modernity to Dior, with his more technical collections incorporating intricate textile work and an outstanding exploration of colour.
In 2016, after the departure of Raf Simons, Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri left Valentino to become the first female Creative Director of Dior. Her first Ready-To-Wear collection combined historical references with archival material and subtle nods to the personality of Christian Dior himself (amongst other things, she showed dresses embroidered with tarot arcana, which the couturier was particularly fond of) and modern pieces like the white slogan T-shirt printed with "We should all be feminists". So, the scene is set. Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri puts women back at the centre of its creations, just as its founder would have wanted. She hasn't held back from revisiting the brand's best-sellers either, producing a studded version of the Lady Dior handbag, as well as adorning the Oblique Tote with the traditional monogram that John Galliano used on his famous Saddle bag – one of the maison’s most popular pieces.
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is hosting the Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams exhibition until 7 January 2018. It attests to the incredible wealth of archive material behind this fashion house, from its first day to the present day. From the hundreds of pieces on show from different eras and designers emerges an impressive linearity. The New Look dress and the Bar suit confirm the omnipresence of Christian Dior at a fashion house in which he spent just ten years, but which has stood the test of time brilliantly, survived one of the biggest scandals in the history of fashion and is still going strong. Long may it continue!