How Christian Dior pioneered 75 years of feminist fashion


When Dior died unexpectedly in 1957 at the age of 52, he left behind an identity that allowed the company and its predecessors to thrive. Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano and Raf Simons successively filled the role of creative director and then Chiuri in 2016.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how focused and how business-like he was,” Starkman says of the late designer. “Had he not been like this, 75 years later there probably wouldn’t be a Dior house, you know?”

By the time LVMH head Bernard Arnault bought Dior in 1984, the brand had expanded to include ready-to-wear, menswear and children’s wear, as well as a cosmetics line. One of Arnault’s first major undertakings was organizing a home retrospective at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris on the occasion of the brand’s 40th anniversary in 1987. A small team was assembled to locate pieces of clothing and documents for the exhibition and shortly afterwards the archive department was established . Pfaff took over the division in 1996. “I got there three weeks before Galliano,” she says. “I learned with him; we learned together.”

Pfaff and her team are looking for different ways to locate archival documents. Many have been found and bought at auctions or bought from museums. Some, such as the Junon dress from Dior’s 1949-1950 fall-winter collection, are obtained by referencing the designer’s extensive customer bases and contacting those families. “That dress, we bought it back from [the family of] a woman named Mrs. Newman from Florida,” says Pfaff. “She died quite young and her husband organized an auction of all the clothes she bought from Dior, as well as accessories. Of course we bought everything.”

“It’s really madness that led us to propose this,” says Beccari of La Galerie Dior, which designed the house in 2018. be replicated. “It took courage to go to Monsieur Arnault,” he notes of the project, which saw Dior close the flagship boutique, offices and studios that occupied 30 Montaigne for more than two years. The brand called in former employee Peter Marino for the architecture. Nathalie Crinière, who has designed several previous Dior exhibitions, set the various scenes.

The booth, also known as ‘the heart of creation’, is where models are prepared for shows, which have been held in the house for decades.CHRISTIAN PELOU.

“What’s incredible is that Dior’s story started here,” Crinière says, echoing a sentiment shared by her colleagues that the museum couldn’t be built anywhere else.

The exhibition opens with a spiral staircase that ascends in front of a three-storey glass enclosure containing a rainbow of over 1,800 3D-printed miniature Dior pieces. “The idea was to go upstairs without getting boring,” explains Crinière. “With this large colorama, people are surprised and understand that they are going to something very special.” The origins of Dior’s luxury home are presented elsewhere through original sketches, early newspaper clippings and the fabric sample charts Dior used to plan his collections.

Past and present are intertwined in several rooms. Two, filled with floral dresses designed by different creative directors, pay tribute to Dior’s love of flowers. A re-creation of the backstage area where models prepared for shows, resembling a booth, are visible through a glass floor. There are odes to the Miss Dior fragrance and to Dior’s days as a gallery owner, when he exhibited works by Picasso, Man Ray and Dalí. Videos dedicated to each creative director play in a loop in one room, and another highlights some of the house’s most famous pieces: the Bohan-designed gold lamé dress Lauren Hutton wore in the French film All fire all flames, the navy blue Galliano slip Princess Diana wore to the 1996 Met Gala, a playful nod to the scandal just after her divorce from Prince Charles. A space dedicated to Dior’s savoir faire has duos from different departments of the studio demonstrating their skills in real time. “There are those really beautiful moments where [we] have an apprentice in his twenties, and next to her someone in his sixties and forties at Dior,” says Starkman. “The gallery welcomes more than a thousand visitors every day,” she adds. “You hear a lot of languages ​​when you walk through the museum,” Starkman says. “Of course you have fashionistas, fashion students – all the people you expect at a fashion exhibition. But there is also a much wider audience.”

As La Derie Gallery was built, the adjacent flagship boutique was revamped with two eateries – a patisserie and Le Restaurant Monsieur Dior – three gardens and several other attributes, such as a special haute couture salon and a towering rose sculpture by Isa Genzken.

The 1947 Corolle line’s haute couture fashion show and the premiere of the bar suit.PAT ENGLISH.

“Every day we have people queuing for the boutique,” ​​Starkman says. “Not necessarily to go in and buy something, but just for the experience.” Beccari compares it to ‘the anti-metaverse; you have to come here and feel these emotions,” he says. This became apparent during a spring visit to the boutique. Outside, a line of home enthusiasts and curious tourists waited to enter behind a Dior-branded partition. Inside, a group of women looked over thread colors in a space dedicated to personalizing shoes and bags. Upstairs, guests partook of Dior’s favorite recipes, just as chef Jean Imbert envisioned. Everyone was taking pictures everywhere – of the carefully constructed roof, of cappuccinos topped with foaming cinnamon-colored Dior logos and lots and lots of selfies.