Christian Dior : Making fashion, not war

Its Awards

1947 : Fashion Oscar ( Dallas )
1950 : Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur

Intended for a career in the diplomatic service, after 3 years at Sciences Po (then known as the Ecole Libre de Sciences Politiques), Christian Dior left the path laid out by his father to follow his passion for art and fashion.

It was a destiny that would enable him, through his fabulous creations, to bring joy, elegance and renewal to a post-war world.

“Couturiers embody one of the last refuges of the marvellous. They are, in a way, masters of dreams…” he declared a few years later.

Dior and Art

Born into a well-to-do family on 21 January 1905 in Granville, Normandy, Christian Dior showed a keen interest in art and fashion from an early age, and this was to shape his future career.

He has fond memories of his family home in Granville, the villa Les Rhumbs, and is well aware of the richness this environment brought him: “I have the fondest and most wonderful memories of my childhood home (…). My life and my style owe almost everything to its location and architecture”.

In the 1920s, he enjoyed a gilded youth, frequenting the Parisian cultural scene and befriending the artists of his time.

In 1928, financed by his father, he opened a first gallery, then a second with his friend Jacques Bonjean, with Pierre Colle as his 3rd partner. Their ambition was to exhibit the great masters they admired: Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Dufy, and painters they knew personally: Christian Bérard, Salvador Dali, Max Jacob, the Berman brothers…

Following his father’s reversal of fortune, the Granville villa, now the Christian Dior Museum, was sold to the town council, and in 1934 Christian Dior was forced to close his galleries and sell off his stock of paintings. Some of these paintings are priceless today.

Art would continue to inspire him throughout his life, as shown by his Braque and Matisse silhouettes from the autumn-winter 1949-1950 collection.

Haute Couture as an art of living

Christian Dior entered the world of Haute Couture through illustration.

In 1935, he began selling his first dress and hat designs to Claude Saint-Cyr and the milliner Madame Agnès.

A few years later, it was with the great couturier Robert Piquet and then Lucien Lelong that he perfected his skills and acquired valuable experience in the industry.

Dior’s breakthrough came in 1947, when he founded his eponymous fashion house, Christian Dior Couture, in Paris.

His first collection, unveiled on 12 February 1947 at 30 Avenue Montaigne, took the fashion world by storm and revolutionised post-war fashion with its feminine silhouettes, luxurious fabrics and intricate detailing. The collection, which featured the iconic “New Look”, moved away from the austere styles of post-war fashion and captured the essence of elegance and sophistication.

Christian Dior put elegance and femininity back at the forefront. Far from the precepts imposed during the Second World War, he gave couture back its share of dreams and gave women a taste for pleasing and arousing desire.

The success of his first collection propelled Dior to international fame and he quickly became synonymous with luxury haute couture. Throughout the 1950s, he continued to innovate and develop his brand, launching new lines of ready-to-wear, accessories and fragrances. His creations were appreciated by royalty, celebrities and high society elites, confirming his status as a fashion icon.

In addition to his creative talents, Dior was also a shrewd businessman who understood the importance of branding and marketing. He embraced the concept of lifestyle branding, creating a consistent image of luxury and refinement that extended beyond clothing to encompass all aspects of the Dior brand. His visionary approach to fashion marketing laid the foundations for modern fashion houses to establish themselves as global lifestyle brands.

Tragically, Christian Dior’s illustrious career was cut short when he died suddenly on 24 October 1957 at the age of 52. His death sent shockwaves through the fashion world, but his legacy lives on in the talented designers who succeeded him at the helm of Dior. After Dior’s untimely death, a young designer named Yves Saint Laurent was appointed Creative Director of the Dior fashion house and continued Dior’s legacy.