The legendary French Fashion designer, Christian Dior is well known for his 1940’s creations, which were hugely popular. He is the most successful fashion designer in the world with his designs being worn by celebrities and members of the Royal Family.
Where it all began
Christian’s designs first broke through in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. After the end of World War II, his designs opposed that of wartime restrictions and brought back femininity and luxury to women’s fashion.
A fashion designer is born
Born on 21 January 1921 Christian was one of five children born to Alexandre Dior and his wife, Isabelle. Originally from the North of France, the family moved to Paris where Christian became passionate about art, and hoped to become a Diplomat.
By 1928 Christian had graduated and opened an art gallery featuring some of the works by renowned artists including Pablo Picasso, however the gallery was only to remain open for a short period of time. Three years later, in 1931, following the death of his mother and older brother, as well as the financial collapse of his father’s business, the art gallery was forced to close.
Not to be deterred, Christian began selling his fashion sketches and eventually landed a position as illustrator for a magazine. Later he went on to become a design assistant for Paris couturier Robert Piguet. Once World War II began, Christian’s thoughts of art and fashion turned to serving his country and he enlisted as an Officer in the French Army. Once France had surrendered to Germany, Christian spent the remaining war years working for fashion designer Lucien Lelong.
The House of Dior
Wishing to make a fresh start and under his own name, Christian decided to branch out on his own, with the financial backing of wealthy businessman Marcel Boussac. The House of Dior was established on 16 December 1946 in Paris, although the current Corporation depicts 1947 as the opening year.
Unusually for the time, Christian was given a great role in the label, legal leadership, a non-controlling stake in the firm and one third pre-tax profits. Christian’s incredible creativity also granted him a good wage.
The First Collection
Christian’s first collection was introduced for the Spring-Summer 1947 season. The show took place at the company’s headquarters, 30 Avenue Montaigne and the two lines were named ‘Corolle’ and ‘Huit’. Fashion critics would exclaim the collection a storming success and history renamed it as the ‘New Look’. It was also credited for reviving the French Fashion Industry. The new name came to be after Carmel Snow, the editor-in-chief of fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar exclaimed, “It’s such a new look’ and ‘It’s quite a revolution’.
Christian’s style would go on to influence the other fashion designers of the time and earn himself quite a number of influential clients from Hollywood as well as European Aristocracy.
Christian Dior Parfums was founded by the Corporation in 1947 and launched its first perfume, Miss Dior parfum, so called after Christian’s sister Catherine. Italian fashion designer Pierre Cardin was made head of the workshop from 1947 until 1950. It only took one year for the parfums to be successful enough for a New York City branch to be opened and become established. Situated on the infamous 5th Avenue, the store is said to have been the first of its kind. In 1949 the Diorama perfume was released which became the iconic signature perfume of the brand.
Before the beginning of 1950, Paris’ fashion exports was made up of 75% of Dior fashions.
A Royal Fashion Show
The House of Dior had become a well respected fashion empire by the mid-1950’s with its first boutique opening in 1954.
Christian’s reputation was already held in fond regard with high profile celebrities, including members of the Royal Family. During 1954 Cristian held a fashion show at Blenheim Palace in honour of Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Marlborough.
Between the years 1954 and 1957 Christian went on to release several more highly acclaimed fashion lines and collections.
The House Without Christian
In March 1957 Christian was featured on the cover of the iconic TIME magazine, sadly, soon after, on 24 October 1957, after suffering previous ill health, Christian had a third heart attack and died aged 52.
Christian’s style and creativity is recognised as one of the greatest fashion heads in history whose legacy continues to influence the fashion and be at the front of the industry today.