The House of Dior unveils its legendary history and heritage.
The House of Dior was established on 16 December 1946 at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. However, the current Dior corporation celebrates "1947" as the opening year. Dior was financially backed by wealthy businessman Marcel Boussac. Boussac had originally invited Dior to design for Philippe et Gaston, but Dior refused, wishing to make a fresh start under his own name rather than reviving an old brand. The new couture house became a part of "a vertically integrated textile business" already operated by Boussac. Its capital was at FFr 6 million and workforce at 80 employees. The company was really a vanity project for Boussac and was a "majorly owned affiliate of Boussac Saint-Freres S.A. Nevertheless, Dior was allowed a then-unusual great part in his namesake label (legal leadership, a non-controlling stake in the firm, and one-third of pretax profits) despite Boussac's reputation as a "control freak". Dior's creativity also negotiated him a good salary.
On 12 February 1947, Christian Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring–Summer 1947. The show of "90 models of his first collection on six mannequins" was presented in the salons of the company's headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne. Originally, the two lines were named "Corolle" and "Huit". However, the new collection went down in fashion history as the "New Look" after the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar Carmel Snow exclaimed, "It's such a new look!" The New Look was a revolutionary era for women at the end of the 1940s. When the collection was presented, the editor in chief also showed appreciation by saying; "It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian!" The debut collection of Christian Dior is credited with having revived the fashion industry of France.mAlong with that, the New Look brought back the spirit of haute couture in France as it was considered glamorous and young-looking. "We were witness to a revolution in fashion and to a revolution in showing fashion as well." The silhouette was characterized by a small, nipped-in waist and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length, which emphasized the bust and hips, as epitomized by the 'Bar' suit from the first collection. The collection overall showcased more stereotypically feminine designs in contrast to the popular fashions of wartime, with full skirts, tight waists, and soft shoulders. Dior retained some of the masculine aspects as they continued to hold popularity through the early 1940s, but he also wanted to include more feminine style.
The New Look became extremely popular, its full-skirted silhouette influencing other fashion designers well into the 1950s, and Dior gained a number of prominent clients from Hollywood, the United States, and the European aristocracy. As a result, Paris, which had fallen from its position as the capital of the fashion world after WWII, regained its preeminence. The New Look was welcomed in western Europe as a refreshing antidote to the austerity of wartime and de-feminizing uniforms, and was embraced by stylish women such as Princess Margaret in the UK. According to Harold Koda, Dior credited Charles James with inspiring The New Look. Dior's designs from the "New Look" did not only affect the designers in the 1950s, but also more recent designers in the 2000s, including Thom Browne, Miuccia Prada, and Vivienne Westwood. Dior's evening dresses from that time are still referred to by many designers, and they have been seen in different wedding themed catwalks with multiple layers of fabric building up below the small waist (Jojo, 2011). Examples include Vivienne Westwood's Ready-to-Wear Fall/Winter 2011 and Alexander McQueen's Ready to Wear Fall/Winter 2011 (Jojo, 2011).
Not everyone was pleased with the New Look, however. Some considered the amount of material to be wasteful, especially after years of cloth rationing.Feminists in particular were outraged, feeling that these corseted designs were restrictive and regressive, and that they took away a woman's independence. There were several protest groups against the designs including, the League of Broke Husbands, made up of 30,000 men who were against the costs associated with the amount of fabric needed for such designs. Fellow designer Coco Chanel remarked, "Only a man who never was intimate with a woman could design something that uncomfortable." Despite such protests, the New Look was highly influential, continuing to inform the work of other designers and fashion well into the 21st century. For the 60th anniversary of the New Look in 2007, John Galliano revisited it for his Spring-Summer collection for Dior. Galliano used the wasp waist and rounded shoulders, modernised and updated with references to origami and other Japanese influences. In 2012 Raf Simons revisited the New Look for his debut haute couture collection for Dior, wishing to update its ideas for the 21st century in a minimalist but also sensual and sexy manner. Simons's work for Dior retained the luxurious fabrics and silhouette, but encouraged self-respect for the woman's body and liberation of expression. The design process for this collection, which was produced in only eight weeks, is documented in Dior and I, presenting Simons's use of technology and modernist re-interpretations.
The death of the head designer left the House of Dior in chaos, and general manager Jacques Rouët considered shutting down operation worldwide. This possibility was not received graciously by Dior licensees and the French fashion industry; the Maison Dior was too important to the financial stability of the industry to allow such an action. To bring the label back on its feet, Rouët promoted the 21-year-old Yves Saint-Laurent to Artistic Director the same year. Laurent had joined the House's family in 1955 after being picked out by the original designer himself for the position of the first ever and only Head Assistant. Laurent initially proved to have been the most appropriate choice after the debut of his first collection for Dior (the mention of Dior from this moment on refers to the company) in 1958. The clothes were as meticulously made and perfectly proportioned as Dior's in the same exquisite fabrics, but their young designer made them softer, lighter and easier to wear. Saint Laurent was hailed as a national hero. Emboldened by his success, his designs became more daring, culminating in the 1960 Beat Look inspired by the existentialists in the Saint-Germain des Près cafés and jazz clubs. His 1960 bohemian look was harshly criticized, and even more in Women's Wear Daily. Marcel Boussac was furious, and in the spring, when Saint Laurent was called up to join the French army—which forced him to leave the House of Dior—the Dior management raised no objection. Saint-Laurent left after the completion of six Dior collections.
Laurent was replaced at Dior by designer Marc Bohan in late 1960. Bohan instilled his conservative style on the collections. He was credited by Rebecca Arnold as the man who kept the Dior label "at the forefront of fashion while still producing wearable, elegant clothes," and Women's Wear Daily, not surprisingly, claimed that he "rescued the firm." Bohan's designs were very well esteemed by prominent social figures. Actress Elizabeth Taylor ordered twelve Dior dresses from Bohan's Spring-Summer 1961 collection featuring the "Slim Look". The Dior perfume "Diorling" was released in 1963 and the men's fragrance "Eau Sauvage" was released in 1966. Bohan's assistant Philippe Guibourgé launches the first French ready-to-wear collection "Miss Dior" in 1967. This is not to be confused with the already existing New York Ready-to-Wear store established in 1948. Designed by Bohan, "Baby Dior" opens its first boutique in 1967 at 28 Avenue Montaigne. The Christian Dior Coordinated Knit line is released in 1968 and management of the Fashion Furs Department of Christian Dior is taken by Frédéric Castet. This year as well, Dior Parfums was sold to Moët-Hennessy (which would itself become LVMH) due to Boussac's ailing textile company (the still-owner of Dior). This, however, had no effect on the House of Dior operations, and so the Christian Dior Cosmetics business was born in 1969 with the creation of an exclusive line.
Following this, Bohan launched the first Christian Dior Homme clothing line in 1970. A new Dior boutique at Parly II was decorated by Gae Aulenti and the "Diorella" perfume was released in 1972. Christian Dior Ready-to-Wear Fur Collection was created in France in 1973, and then manufactured under license in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The first Dior watch "Black Moon" was released in 1975 in collaboration with licensee Benedom. Dior haute-couture graced the bodies of Princess Grace of Monaco, Nicaraguan First Lady Hope Portocarrero, Princess Alexandra of Yugoslavia, and Lady Pamela Hicks (Lord Mountbatten of Burma's younger daughter) for the wedding of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. In 1978, the Boussac Group filed for bankruptcy and so its assets (including those of Christian Dior) were purchased by the Willot Group under the permission of the Paris Trade Court. The perfume "Dioressence" was released in 1979.
In 2000, Galliano's collection inspired by homeless people drew criticism, but also attention, to the house of Dior.
In early 2011, scandal arose when John Galliano was accused of making anti-semitic comments after drinking in Paris. Footage was released of the designer under the influence of alcohol saying "I love Hitler" and "People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers would be fucking gassed and dead" to a Jewish woman. In France, it is against the law to make anti-semitic remarks of this nature, and it can be punished by up to six months in prison.On 1 March 2011, Christian Dior officially announced that it had fired Galliano amidst the controversy.
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Christian Dior Haute Couture: The Banderilla of Fashion in the Realm of Art , Paris Haute Couture Fall 2007
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