Having visited the latest exhibition to take the Victoria & Albert museum by storm, we thought we’d take some time to delve a little deeper into the history of one of the world’s most iconic Fashion Houses and lay bare our adoration for the Designer of Dreams – Christian Dior.
Christian Dior’s beginnings were actually in art, not fashion. After moving to Paris in 1928 he opened a gallery with his friend Jacques Bonjean which sadly closed after Dior was diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1934. It was only after being taken in by close friend and fashion designer Jean Ozenne that Dior discovered his talent for fashion design. He went on to design for Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong and in the space of a decade, the man who wanted to be an architect ended up revolutionising the way women dressed.
Whilst the House of Dior was founded in 1946, it was in 1947 that Christian Dior presented a 90 piece collection to magazine editors at his Parisian townhouse on Avenue Montaigne. Titled ‘New Look’ it celebrated the end of rationing and the war – dresses were made using (on average) 20 yards of fabric, waists were defined and silhouette’s structured. Needless to say, the collection was an overnight success.
Over the following years the House of Dior launched fragrances and business partner Jacques Rouët secured a licensing deal to have the Christian Dior name placed onto other luxury items such as neckties and hosiery. In 1953 a shoe line was created with the help of Roger Vivier and in 1954 the first Dior boutique was opened at 9 Counduit Street, London.
By the time the House of Dior was celebrating its 10th anniversary, it had sold 100,000 garments and it was this year that actress Ava Gardner had 14 dresses made for her film The Little Hut.
Women loved the way Dior’s designs made them look and feel. Unlike other designers of the time, instead of trying to create simplified, androgynous styles, Dior created petal-like skirts in taffeta and tulle, cinched in waists and lifted busts. He celebrated and empowered femininity.
Shortly after appearing on the cover of Time magazine in 1957, Christian Dior sadly died after a heart attack. In an effort to revive the company which was now overcome with sadness, Jacques Rouët appointed Yves Saint Laurent as the Artistic Director of Dior. Saint Laurent had actually joined the House in 1955 and was chosen by Christian Dior himself to be a part of the family and ‘Head Assistant’.
Over the following years the House of Dior enjoyed continued success under Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferrè and John Galliano, expanding into menswear, fine jewellery and watches.
It was under Galliano that the now iconic and coveted Saddle bag was created and the brand took a more bold and theatrical approach.
The ‘Designer of Dreams’ exhibition at the V&A showcases a breathtaking selection of designs that span the life of the House of Dior. Over 70 years later and with first female Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri at the helm, one things remains clear – Christian Dior continues to celebrate femininity and empower women.
If you’d like to own a piece of Dior history, shop our curated collection of pieces below. From leather accessories to vintage jewellery from the Galliano era, these are the timeless classics to cherish forever.