Born with the aim of giving back to women the desire to take care of themselves, to seduce and to assert themselves, the French house Dior, with global success, has now established itself as one of the pillars of haute couture. Back to its origins and history.
Since 1947, the year of the first collection, the luxury house Dior has continued to sublimate the bodies of women. From Christian Dior himself, to Maria Grazia Chiuri today, the Dior style has never stopped reinventing itself, always respecting its heritage.
During Fashion Week, the Dior show is an event awaited by the fashion world, both for the collections and for the decor of the catwalk. An exceptional fashion show that also addresses the major themes of today’s society, through committed collections.
A look back at the evolution of a luxury house which, since its inception, has gone against the grain of trends, to create a real identity for itself.
The origins of Dior
It was after the Second World War that Christian Dior, passionate model maker, founded his house. On February 12, 1947 – date of birth of the iconic Bar jacket – he presented his first collection under the gold of the salons located at 30 avenue Montaigne. His creations instill the renewal, beauty and happiness to which the French population aspires after long years of conflict. The designer then surprised the fashion world by imagining silhouettes that reconnect with elegance and lightness.
Loose, puffy skirts cut to mid-calf, frilly, cinched waist, round chest: the “New Look” – name given by Carmel Snow, then editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar – is a hymn to femininity and seduction. Although the garment then constitutes the initial essence of the house, for Christian Dior, the perfume is essential when it comes to sublimating the latter. This is how he created in 1947, the Miss Dior fragrance that has become timeless. And if Christian Dior then had the makings of an idealistic and emancipatory creator, he was also recognized for his talents as a visionary leader. In ten years, the Dior company has set up in around fifteen countries, starting with England and the United States, thus imposing its name and image internationally thanks to ingenuous and innovative marketing for the time.
When Christian Dior died in 1957, Yves Saint-Laurent, in Paris, and Marc Bohan, in London and New York, took over the reins of the French house. But despite the success of his first collection, Yves Saint-Laurent quickly left the Dior workshops. Marc Bohan replaced him and signed all the rooms in the house until 1989, before giving way to Gianfranco Ferré. In the early 90s, the LVMH group, chaired by Bernard Arnault, bought Diorto make him the standard bearer of his empire. The arrival of fashion designer John Galliano in 1996 then marked a glamorous and revolutionary turn as beneficial for the spirit of the brand as for the fashion sphere in general. Result: Dior’s turnover soars. But despite the creative and exuberant effervescence of John Galliano , the original values of the house of refinement, elegance and excellence endure. Thus, Dior creations continue to be designed with passion and innovation, all driven by a love of aesthetics and an overwhelming desire to bring dreams to life.
Dior, the creator of the “New Look”
Originally from Lower Normandy, Christian Dior began to draw from childhood and, going against the wishes of his parents’ entrepreneurs who wanted him to follow a more “respectable” career, he began working for the designer Robert Piguet, before join the house of Lucien Lelong in the company of a certain Pierre Balmain.
But it was only in 1946 that he was approached by the textile magnate Marcel Boussac who offered him to launch his own brand. The impact on Parisian and then international fashion will be unprecedented.
A real snub to the post-war economic crisis, Christian Dior threw himself headlong into his first creations with a collection called “Corolle”, in reference to flower petals. Using yards and yards of precious fabrics to make imposing skirts, he structures these fabrics into corseted, ultra- feminine silhouettes that seem straight out of another time.
Legendary editor Carmel Snow called this collection “New Look”, a style to which all women – tired of the austerity of dress imposed by the war – immediately succumb. And if they could not then afford it at Monsieur Dior, they would go out of their way to make their own model, even if it meant sacrificing their curtains!
An international success
By surrounding itself on the one hand with emblematic, extremely fruitful and perfectionist designers, and on the other hand with the talents of businessman of Sidney Toledano until 2018, then of Pietro Beccari, current CEO of the company, Dior has succeeded to be one of the giants of luxury, changing the evolution of fashion design. In addition, the brand stands out thanks to its fruitful collaborations with many artists and filmmakers, authors of remarkable campaigns. In 2017, Sofia Coppola notably staged Natalie Portman in the advertising clip for Miss Dior Chérie. Diorcan also count on its starry muses, whose incomparable glamor contributes to sublimate its creations, like Monica Belluci, Charlize Theron or Sharon Stone.
Various creative horizons
Fashion, perfumes, cosmetics, watchmaking, jewelry … Dior has been able to extend its vision over time to many creative horizons. And whatever the field, excellence is there. Some products have also become real essentials, like the famous Lady Dior bag, created in 1995, which propelled Dior to the rank of luxury leather goods, joining Louis Vuitton. We will also note the success of the Saddle Bag designed by John Galliano, which has become a real must-have among fashionable girls. In terms of fragrances, Eau sauvage, the first Dior fragrance forhomme created in 1966, the unexpected Poison launched in 1985 and J’adore released in 1999, have never lost their splendor. And when it comes to beauty, Dior is also redesigning the contours of the face with a line of cosmetics developed since 1954. Therefore, it is appropriate that any “ Dior addict” has in its drawers, the eponymous lipstick. Called “couture jewelry” by Christian Dior, the models designed by Victoire de Castellane, artistic director of Dior jewelry, combine fantasy and perfection, lightness and know-how.
A woman at Dior
After the departure of Raf Simons, who to take over Dior? In 2016, Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, who once shared the artistic direction of Valentino, was named. Already known in the industry, since her work at Valentino was regularly noticed, her arrival at Christian Dior was nevertheless emulated. The cause? It’s a woman ! She thus becomes the first of its kind to take the helm of a major fashion house.
Since her arrival, she has made Dior a house that pays as much care and thoroughness to its pieces as to its speech. Often citing many feminist inspirations, developing a contemporary wardrobe without ever detaching it from the enchantment that made Christian Dior famous, Marie Grazia Chiuri is a contemporary designer who has not finished making us dream, paving the way for many other designers.
The history of Dior in 8 key moments
A master of French elegance and good taste, Christian Dior has conquered fashion and the hearts of women. Each collection signed Christian Dior transforms the silhouette of the woman. The designer plays with geometric lines and creates surprises with each new collection. Thus, the marked waist, signature of the ” New Look ” spirit, was gradually hidden between 1950 and 1953 to finally disappear completely in the ” H Line ” in 1954.
In another life, before becoming the famous couturier we know, CHRISTIAN DIOR was a gallery owner, showing a predilection for surrealists, from Picasso to Dalí. But if he had to go out of business in 1934, a victim of the repercussions of the economic crisis of 1929, he discovered another passion, that of dressing women.
A fortune-teller – whom this superstitious by nature had met at a younger age at a fair in Granville, his hometown, in Normandy – had also predicted that they would be beneficial to him, and that it would be thanks to them, again, that he would succeed. Could the future creator then have imagined what awaited him? A talented designer, he studied in 1938 with two tenors of fashion, Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, before Marcel Boussac, a rich industrialist specializing in textiles, offered to launch his brand in 1946. The couturier accepted… after finding a star, his lucky charm, on a Parisian sidewalk. He then opened his eponymous house at 30 avenue Montaigne, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées.
A dramatic turn in the world of fashion! Christian Dior presents his very first collection in front of a dumbfounded audience. The couturier has just unveiled 90 creations and a new silhouette, a “NEW LOOK”, as Carmel Snow, editor-in-chief of the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar, calls it, the day after the parade. The English name therefore qualifies this revolutionary style – the chest and waist are emphasized, and the hips accentuated by means of corolla skirts and fitted blazers (including the famous Bar jacket) – a style that contrasts sharply with the austere allure. who reigns in post-war Paris. And for good reason: Christian Dior claims 20 meters of fabric to make a dress, when in the past it only took three. Women drape themselves in this rediscovered luxury, both glamorous.
When Christian Dior died in 1957, his young assistant, who joined the house in 1955, took up the torch. Her name? Yves Saint Laurent. At 21, the designer, completely unknown, shakes up the codes by presenting his Trapeze collection for spring-summer 1958. The “Little Prince of Fashion” ushers in a new era, greeted by thunderous applause: on the catwalk, the silhouette – including that of the legendary Bonne Conduite dress – abandons the fitted waist, hitherto characteristic of the luxury label, in favor of soft lines, which erase the curves very lightly. The clothes from the six collections that Yves Saint Laurent will produce at Dior will herald a wind of change at the dawn of the sixties by freeing themselves from the stilted elegance of the 1950s.
In 1960, in the midst of the Algerian war, Yves Saint Laurent was called to do his military service, but, suffering from depression, he was hospitalized. The luxury label decides to replace it with another figure of the house, Marc Bohan, present since 1957. For spring-summer 1961, the designer unveils his Slim Look collection, which refines the silhouette and celebrates a free and daring femininity, in the mood of time. Following the parade, actress Elizabeth Taylor, charmed, would have ordered a dozen dresses. The designer held the controls of the artistic direction for 28 years, until his departure in 1989. Under his reign, the brand established itself as a staple of Parisian fashion and multiplied the ready-to-wear collections by launching Miss Dior, Baby Dior and Christian Dior Monsieur. His credo? “Making sophisticated clothes in the simplicity, with a touch of insolence, at times”, as he will say so well himself.
On an official visit, Lady Di wears one of the brand’s latest creations, a nameless bag with unstoppable chic, launched a year earlier. The Princess of Wales received it as a gift from the First Lady of France and she is under the spell, so much so that she orders it in all its versions. Handcrafted, the leather accessory requires 140 separate pieces and displays the house’s illustrious cane motif, reminiscent of the Napoleon III chairs that greeted guests during Christian Dior’s first fashion show. In tribute to Diana Spencer, the brand renames its now cult bag, LADY DIOR. Since its inception, Dior has effortlessly succeeded in attracting royal heads and Hollywood actresses to its clientele, from Grace de Monaco to Jackie Kennedy, including Marlene Dietrich.
That year, a new artistic director took up the torch left by Italian designer Gianfranco Ferré, who joined Dior in 1989 after the departure of Marc Bohan. JOHN GALLIANO imposes his flamboyant vision, coupled with boundless eccentricity. On the catwalks, style is the creative banner of this free figure who is the British designer. Each parade, he strives to tell a story, inspired by the Ballets Russes, ancient Egypt, the Palace of Versailles … or the homeless people he meets on the banks of the Seine when he is doing his morning jogging.
The spring-summer 2000 haute couture collection, nicknamed Clochards, caused a scandal, but whatever. John Galliano, fashion darling and king of provocation, seduces fashionistas, who are snapping up the famous Newspaper dress, whose print recalls the pages of a daily newspaper. Year after year, the popularity of the designer is not denied… until February 2011. The designer is indicted for having launched anti-Semitic insults at customers of a Parisian bar, accusations corroborated by an amateur video filmed a few months earlier. John Galliano, drunk at the time of the incident, was immediately dismissed from his post.
After the scandal caused by John Galliano, Dior called on Raf Simons to take over the reins of its haute couture and ready-to-wear collections. This Belgian designer, who refined his minimalist style with Jil Sander as artistic director, is moving away from the theatrical spirit of his predecessor. On the catwalk, the feminine silhouettes with sculptural lines are adorned with a modern and refined sophistication, which pays homage to the rich heritage of the luxury house. The clothes he creates are above all made to be worn on a daily basis, sublimating the woman without overshadowing her. The success is immediate, and Raf Simons, carried to the skies, enjoys a true cult. Among the clients? Famous wildlife, especially Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson and Marion Cotillard.
Seventy years after the inauguration of the Dior house, the brand names – finally! – a woman at the head of creation. Maria Grazia Chiuri, until now co-artistic director of Valentino, alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli, replaces Raf Simons, who left for Calvin Klein. Throughout the collections, imprints of poetry, the designer draws the features of the Dior woman and infuses her with her feminist, romantic and ethereal vision, both modern and timeless. For her fall-winter 2020-2021 show, the designer is inspired by her youth and the writings of the Italian art critic Carla Lonzi to design a wildly seventies wardrobe, presented in a decor again explicitly feminist. With Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior once again proves its avant-garde status in the world of fashion, and the result, sublime.
Conceived in 2018 by the Royal Ontario Museum, the Christian Dior exhibition will take place in the fall at the Mccord Museum in downtown Montreal. This retrospective traces a key period of the luxury label, from the New Look of 1947 to the couturier’s death in 1957, to allow us to better understand the process of creation of this genius of the garment. Bringing together a hundred objects and some 50 silhouettes – from elegant city outfits to precious ball gowns – the exhibition highlights the meticulous work and the revolutionary vision of Christian Dior during his wild years at the head of his brand. Notice to all fashion lovers with a capital M!
Iconic accessories from the house of Dior
Whether it’s a luxury bag or a pair of shoes with an apparent logo, the Dior collections give birth to timeless accessories that we find, season after season, at the forefront of the fashion scene. Starting with the Lady Dior bag, which takes its name from Princess Diana. With its cannage pattern and structured shape, the bag created in 1994 is undoubtedly synonymous with French elegance and is available in patent, grained or mat leather.
The Saddle Bag , meanwhile, is the it-bag of the moment after a successful comeback at the start of 2018. This bag dubbed by Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City series is now displayed in every angle, on the arm of the influencers fashion, in search of influences of the nineties.
If the luxury bags signed Dior regularly take the leading role in streetstyle during Fashion Week, shoes are not left out. With their visible logo ribbon and kitten heel, J’adior pumps quickly found their way to the feet of fashionable girls. Retro and chic spirit at the rendezvous!
In the sneaker department, it is the Walk’n’Dior that attracts all eyes. This embroidered canvas model is the perfect mix between streetwear and haute couture inspirations. Vintage pieces or new creations, the Dior collections reveal all the know-how of the house, between innovation and respect for its heritage. As a result, flagship products that are re-invented over the collections, without ever getting a wrinkle.
The story of Christian Dior at the Granville museum
Until January 3, 2021, meet in Granville in the villa Les Rhumbs, childhood home of Christian Dior to discover its history and the thrust of its success. Like a learning novel, the exhibition traces the path of one of the greatest names in French Haute-Couture. Discover the seaside atmosphere and the English gardens which infused a style so characteristic to the couturier, always melancholy from his childhood.
Photographic and physical exhibition
The exhibition is first of all a step back in the early 20th century, in the infancy of Christian Dior, with his four siblings and his parents. We see him here through the prism of a dreamy and shy child, to whom the calm of the countryside does good. Photographs of Willy Maywald and Emile Savitry, official documents and period magazines show us growing up and arriving in his favorite environment. Nearly 100 models are then available to visitors in the entire house to discover its tailoring, witness its evolution and satisfy the amazed gazes. Summer outfit from 1956, fur jacket from 1980 and evening dress from 1965 are exclusively exhibited, which makes the experience highly immersive.
Visit of the workshops
The workshops are “hieroglyphic decipherers”. Hieroglyphics which here are the sketches that Christian Dior drew all day and night, all the time and everywhere. This is where the magic happens, to reveal the creative genius of the prolific couturier. Accessible on the second floor of the villa, they are the highlight of the exhibition and a reconstruction of those at 30, avenue Montaigne. The tailoring workshop welcomes structured models such as coats, trouser-jacket suits made of relatively thick fabrics: terrycloth, wool, or serge. The flou workshop, meanwhile, gives rise to the most aerial creations: there is an abundance of silk, muslin, organza or veil for delicate and vaporous blouses, dresses or skirts.
As for the influence of his house, no one would have told it better than himself: “My life, my style, owe almost everything to its location and its architecture”. Coming from a middle-class background, Christian Dior was able to savor the calm and sweetness of rural life in Normandy, facing the Channel Islands. It is far from the hubbub of the city and in the countless rooms of the city Les Rhumbs that it comes from its floral inspirations that we still find today. This name comes from the marine term indicating the 32 divisions of the compass rose, which is itself represented in mosaic on the floor of the entrance. As with the garden, this marine heritage is omnipresent in Christian Dior’s art, especially in his first creations.
The 5 most iconic Dior bags
“Like all your clothes, your bag deserves your attention”, recommends Christian Dior to his readers in LE PETIT DICTIONNAIRE DE LA MODE. First published in 1954, this advice is still relevant today. With well-established know-how, Dior manufactures delicate and timeless masterpieces, as well as highly prized leather goods.
The Lady Dior
A bag as elegant as its namesake, the LADY DIOR salutes not only the royal fashion icon, Diana, Princess of Wales, but also the legacy of Christian Dior. With its metal charms, for example, the bag pays homage to the superstitious beliefs of the designer, who used to display numerous talismans. And the quilted leather, crafted in Cannage stitching, is meant to resemble the Napoleon III chairs provided to guests at the house’s haute couture parades on Avenue Montaigne. Created by Dior’s successor, Gianfranco Ferré, the Lady Dior was presented to the Princess of Wales in 1995 by the former French first lady Bernadette Chirac. Lady Diana has become a staunch admirer of the said handbag, which was – and still is – made from 144 pieces in Dior’s workshops in Florence.
The Saddle Dior
The unique horse saddle shape designed by haute couture’s enfant terrible, John Galliano, debuted on the Spring / Summer 2000 show. Available in an array of sizes, fabrics and patterns – think of it alln- denim, sheepskin or oblique Dior canvas – this charismatic handbag quickly conquered the early 2000s fashion. With its short shoulder strap and sophisticated charms, the Saddle Dior bag marked a new turning point in ugly fashion culture. Wandering around Manhattan in search of Big, Carrie Bradshaw not only met the 2000s zeitgeist but also contributed to the success of the Saddle bag in Sex and the City. Abandoned for years, THE SADDLE BAG made her comeback in 2018 with Dior’s first woman named artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri – and, once again, sparked unparalleled enthusiasm.
The Dior Book Tote
Simple and spacious, this DIOR TOTE BAG is another of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s flagship creations, which broke social media records. Designed to easily contain everything you need for a weekend getaway, the Dior Book Tote impresses with its volume. First presented in Dior Oblique canvas during the 2018 ready-to-wear fashion show, the model of relaxed yet structured elegance is available in a diverse range of colors and materials, from camouflage embroidery to monochrome calfskin.
Created by Raf Simons in 2015, the Dior Diorama is a sophisticated but contemporary piece, signature of the house. This leather flap bag is structured in relief, which accentuates its timeless shape and highlights its refined chain. The bag was reissued by Maria Grazia Chiuri in 2018, and comes in a variety of styles – in metallic leather, bright colors or studded.
The Dior 30 Montaigne
Released only in 2019, the 30 Montaigne is a fairly recent addition to Dior’s accessories portfolio – but it’s here to stay. The medium-sized rectangular bag is an ode to the iconic Parisian address and features a flap punctuated with an imposing CD clasp. Amidst many flashy designer bags, the Dior 30 Montaigne represents a timeless investment.