Christian Dior 1905 - 1957
Christian Dior was a French couturier who revolutionised the approach to women’s fashion, re-establishing Paris as the fashion capital of the world after the Second World War.
Dior was born to a wealthy fertiliser manufacturer in the seaside town of Granville Normandy, in 1905. However, he only enjoyed the countryside’s delights until the age of five, before moving with his parents and four siblings to Paris.
Despite his parents being keen on their son becoming a successful diplomat, Dior was eager to pursue a creative career and began to sell his sketches on the streets for pocket money. After finishing school, Dior’s father gifted his son with an art gallery. He and a friend sold work by many artists, including Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst and Joan Miró. Although Dior would eventually focus on fashion, contemporary art played a key role in the early development of his creative process; in fact two dresses that appeared in his first show were named Matisse and Braque. He remained friends with his painter and poet friends, sitting as a model and marrying his designs with their ideas and music.
'Don't buy much but make sure that what you buy is good.'
Stunning Christian Dior Gemini Gloved Mannequin Head. A rare original piece that displays Glasses, scarves or hats, designed by Christian Dior in the 1950s. Light wear consistent with age and use, Patina consistent with age and use. For sale through the Slade House shop.
The House of Christian Dior was founded in December 1946 but it’s official year of conception was 1947, when the first collection was shown. This collection was monumental in the development of women’s fashion after the war. Ninety looks were presented in two lines, named “Corolle” and “Huit”, that were soon nicknamed the “New Look’, highlighting their innovative approach. The look consisted of a full, calf length skirt accompanied by a fuller and brought together by a dramatically cinched waist. This design rejected the fabric restrictions imposed by the Second World War, using, on average, 20 yards of material per dress and was met with some criticism upon release. The luxury of his designs at this point acted as a great contrast to grim post-war Europe and helped Paris reclaim its position as the world’s fashion capital.
In a very short amount of time, the number of orders made to the house soared. World famous stars and royal families all wanted Dior pieces, this raised the house’s profile significantly. The British Royal Family even invited Dior to privately present his collection for them. However, King George V was apprehensive in allowing his daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, to own the “new Look”, in case it set a bad example while the rationings were still in place.
Dior himself was an interesting character. He was incredibly superstitious, and only became more and more so as he grew older. For example, each collection would include one coat named after his place of birth, a model wearing a bunch of his favourite flowers, Lily of the Valley; and he never began a couture show without meeting with his tarot card reader. By 1948, only two years after its birth, Dior established a first of its kind, luxury, ready-to-wear fashion house in New York. In the same year he launched Dior Parfums, ‘Miss Dior’ being the first, followed by ‘Diorama’ a year later. In 1949, Dior decided to license his name to a range of accessories. He had realised that it was important to create an entire look, elevated by Dior shoes, hats, furs and gloves. His clothes were now being made across the world and consequently his brand name became recognised globally. This move was largely criticised by the French Couture world who argued that it cheapened the industry. However, in the years that followed, the other brands, who saw how profitable Dior’s move was, followed suit.
In 1955, a 19-year-old Yves Saint Laurent became Dior’s design assistant. Then in 1957, Dior approached the young protégé’s mother to tell her that he had chosen Saint Laurent to succeed him at Dior. This seemed confusing, dramatic even, as Dior was only 52 at the time. However, shortly after their meeting, he suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving his business in chaos. 2,500 people attended his funeral, including all of his staff and many of his famous clients. In an attempt to stabilise the company, Yves Saint Laurent was appointed as artistic director. Despite being succeeded by a designer who would later establish his own renowned label, Dior had left the important legacy in the evolution of women’s fashion in such difficult times, bringing joy and opulence to the world.