Designer Analysis: Christian Dior By: Dale De Mari Intro to Fashion Business Fall 2013
De Mari 1
Dale De Mari Intro to Fashion Business Designer Analysis: Christian Dior October 22, 2013
Designer Analysis: Christian Dior Christian Dior was a French couturier, known worldwide for his eponymous
fashion house, which is often referred to just as Dior (Vogue). Although Dior only spent ten years heading his fashion label, he is referred to as pioneer in international branding. Dior was born in the small, seaside town of Granville, located on the coast of Normandy, in 1905. Dior’s parents were wealthy fertilizer manufactures and he had four siblings. At the age of five, Dior’s parents decided to leave Granville and move to Paris. Although living in Paris, Dior always embraced his roots. Every summer while growing up, Dior traveled back to Granville (Parkins and Hayworth). Parkins and Hayworth state in their biography, “The Parisian half, he implies, is responsible for creating “the famous couturier,” while the Norman side, to which he claims a strong attachment, makes him detest “the noise and bustle of the world”(Parkins and Hayworth 674).
Growing up, Dior’s parents hoped he would study political science and make
his contribution to society as a Diplomat. While living in Paris, Dior would use his artistic abilities to draw sketches and sell them peddling on the streets to make pocket money. Dior attended the ole des Sciences Politiques School, primarily to please his parents. After Dior graduated from school, he gained ownership of a small art gallery, which his father bought for him. The art gallery proved successful for Dior, he sold works by artists including Pablo Picasso. Although business was good, De Mari 2
De Mari 3
the economical landscape changed. Following the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, the death of both his mother and his brother, and the collapse of his father’s business, Dior was forced to close his art gallery (Vogue).
During this time, Dior gained close relationships with a select group of male
confidants. Dorothy Rompalske writes in her article, ‘Christian Dior: King of Couture’, “Dior developed close friendships with a select group of males. They called themselves the “Club” and were brought together by their common love of art and their homosexuality” (Rompalske). Throughout Dior’s life, he would go on to have a series of private, discrete relationships with men. Dior considered his relationships with his female friends be vital to his inspiration, many of whom served as muses for designer (Rompalske). Biographer Francoise Giroud pointed out, when Dior looked at women, it was to dress, rather than to undress, them (Rompalske).
The close of Dior’s art gallery led him to working for fashion designer Robert
Piguet. Dior’s employment with Piguet was short, eventually Dior was called for military service in 1940 to 1942. During the time after, Dior entered the fashion industry again, this time working with French designers who dressed the wives of Nazi officers and French officials. The impact of the war led Dior’s younger sister Catherine to joining the French resistance, ultimately she was captured and imprisoned by the Gestapo. Catherine managed to survive horrific circumstances placed on her while in capture and was liberated in 1945. 1n 1947, Dior named his debut fragrance, “Miss Dior” as a tribute to her (Vogue).
In the beginning of 1946, the Allied Forces liberated France and this would
start Dior’s relationship with Marcel Boussac, known in France as the “king cotton”.
De Mari 4
De Mari 5
Boussac admired Dior’s innovative designs and passion that radiated from his sketches. Ultimately, Boussac would fund the creation of Christian Dior’s fashion house. The house of Christian Dior was founded on December 16, 1946 at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris. Dior’s Paris fashion house was representative of his fond love for architecture and special design. Parkins and Hayworth comment, “The fact that Dior did in actuality recreate the interior aesthetics of his childhood in both his adult homes and his design house suggests that this assertion of affinity with historical interiors is an accurate description of his affective choices” (Parkins and Haworth 667).
Dior gained immediate success, his first line introduced in 1947 established
him as a designer. The launch of Dior’s “New Look” sparked his global career as a fashion celebrity. The house of Dior was an immediate success, he quickly gained an international profile and his clothes were worn all over the world. Initially, not all of the press was positive. Parkins and Haworth mention, “Dior’s global reach and visibility was such that he sparked protests in America, due to his initial lengthening of the hemline” (Parkins and Haworth 687). The press Dior received was overwhelming; he far surpassed the attention given to any other fashion designer of the period.
Known as “Cri-‐Cri” to his close friends, Dior branched out faster and further
than any other designer of the time did. Twice a year, Dior would retreat to seclusion, he would spend time in his bathtub, where Dior sketched his new designs. By 1957, Christian Dior was suffering from a series of medical problems. After appearing on the cover of TIME magazine in 1957, Dior traveled to Italy to vacation.
De Mari 6
De Mari 7
While spending his holiday in town of Montecatini, Dior suffered his third heart attack. On October 23, 1957, Dior died from a massive heart attack at the age of 52. The man who funded the house of Dior, Marcel Boussac sent a private plane to bring Dior’s body back to Paris. It has been reported that 2,500 people attended Dior’s funeral, including all of his employees, close friends, and extensive group of celebrity friends. Dior was buried in Cimetiere de Callian, in Var, France. At the time of his death, Dior’s fashion house was earning a reported $20 million dollars annually. Yves Saint Laurent, who joined the house of Dior in 1955, took over as creative director at the age of 21.
An article published in Vogue’s March 1954 issue titled, ‘Dior in Japan’, is an
example of the designer’s international appeal. The Vogue article is also fundamental to understand how Dior set a precedent in the fashion industry. This was the first time a French couture fashion designer entered into the East. Dior’s wide spread appeal included the Western world, which helped gain excitement into the East. The Japanese dress making institute, Shinjuku Bunka Gakuin, admired Dior’s fashions and initiated Dior’s journey to Japan. It seems that Dior was excited by this journey, “Having agreed to the project, Dior went all out – and practically emptied his salon of the then-‐current collection” (Vogue). Dior managed to stop in four Japanese cites, showing his autumn and winter collections. Dior’s collections were an immediate hit with the Japanese spectators; he managed to fascinate the audiences.
The Dior collection tour of Japan sparked royalty to flock to the runway
shows. After Dior toured Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka the newspaper reports
De Mari 8
De Mari 9
generated mass appeal. According to Vogue, “Followed by newspaper reports which made “the tulip line” and the “hemline controversy” almost new Japanese household words” (Vogue). Christian Dior successfully redefined the fashion landscape. The Vogue article is a great example of how Dior broke into cultures worldwide, even gaining mass popularity in traditional cultures such as Japan. Christian Dior launched his first collection in 1947, which Harpers Bazaar dubbed the ”New Look”. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Dior’s first collection featured rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and very full skirt, the “New Look” celebrated ultra-‐femininity and opulence in women's fashion. After years of military and civilian uniforms, sartorial restrictions and shortages, Dior offered not merely a new look but a new outlook” (Charleston). This came at a time after France was recovering from the war, and designers and dressmakers were still constricted by sumptuary laws prohibiting the excessive use of fabric and buttons. Dior brought his new outlook onto the Paris fashion scene and helped name a postwar Paris as the capital of fashion. The American press immediately began following Dior’s career, they named his first suit introduced in the “New Look the “Bar” suit, which was deemed the most iconic look in the collection. When Dior launched a new collection each season, he included a coat called the “Granville”, named after his birthplace. Each season, Dior launched a collection that had a theme. In spring of 1947, his first collection was titled “Carolle” or “figure 8,” a name that suggested the silhouette of the new look with its prominent shoulders, accentuated hips, small waist, and very full skirt (Charleston). Dior wanted his designs to celebrate
De Mari 10
femininity and opulence in women’s fashion. Dior’s next innovation came in the spring of 1953 when he introduced his collection, which was dubbed “Tulip” (Charleston). The “Tulip” collection featured an abundance of floaty, flowery prints bright in colors using the finest silk dupioni and other fine fabrics (Charleston). Dior was known to create his clothes to the please the women, enabling them to please their men.
In the spring of 1955, Dior’s collection “A-‐Line,” featured an undefined waist,
a smooth silhouette that widened over the hips and legs and resembling a capital “A” (Charleston). The classic and contemporary styles attributed to Dior’s designs are what helped set him apart from other designers of the era. According to Charleston, “Some of Dior’s designs simulated Second Empire and other historical styles, but he was also creating menswear, trompe-‐l’-‐oeil detailing, and soft-‐to-‐hard juxtapositions, making them part of the modern wardrobe” (Charleston). Dior used solid, rigid construction to convey a delicate look, sometimes a single skirt would need up to 15 years of fabric. Towards the end of Dior’s career in 1957, he felt that women needed a more limber silhouette and lifestyle. His final collection would bring together chemises, narrow tunics, and sari-‐like wraps.
Dior knew who is target customer was and believed in creating luxurious
pieces of clothing to go side-‐by-‐side with their lives. Christian Dior catered to upper-‐ class woman, who had the ability to pay upwards of $300 for a casual dress and up to $2,400 dollars for an elaborate evening gown. Dior designed haute-‐couture gowns and dresses, which were sized accordingly for individual clients. Dior suiting came in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. Dior eventually carried a full line of stockings, fur,
De Mari 11
hats, shoes, shoes, accessories, and fragrances. In the early 1950’s, Dior’s perfumes were the second most expensive in the world. A snob appeal transcended from someone having the ability to afford Dior, although this was not his goal. Upper class members of society, 30+ with international traveling abilities, older children or none at all, who shopped frequently, were traditional Dior customers. In addition, Dior catered to royalty and celebrities from Ava Gardner to Marlene Dietrich. In terms of sales dollars, the biggest clients were North American Hollywood stars, New York socialites, and department store buyers who bought the exclusive rights to different, individual designs.
Throughout the 1950’s, Dior ran the biggest and most successful haute
couture house in Paris. At the time, the closest competition to the Dior brand was Pierre Balmain and Cristobel Balenciaga. Dior did things that kept him different from his competitors. The models he used, which he referred to as mannequins, came from upper class backgrounds, same as his clients. In addition, Dior hired his models in different shapes and sizes, which was effective to showing how the clothes would look on different women. Dior’s design concept was massively popular and other designers quickly began to copy his signature elements. Today, designers such as John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Louis Vuitton, and Betsy Johnson incorporate Dior’s “New Look” aesthetic in their designs.
Today, the Christian Dior fashion house still operates. Consumers can
purchase Dior fashions at luxury department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, boutiques, and Dior boutiques. A majority of Dior’s original haute-‐couture garments
De Mari 12
are found in museums, which often run Dior exhibits. There is also a large vintage market on the internet, for example etsy.com is selling a 1950’s, original Dior label dress, in excellent condition for $3,000 dollars. When Dior was alive, his garments and accessories were available for purchase though his boutiques, which quickly opened locations worldwide.
After researching Dior and his influence on fashion, I hold an even deeper
respect for the man. Not only was Dior a pioneer in transcending fashion from drab to fabulous, he was a genius executive. Dior’s career lasted only ten years but he left an impact on society, culture, and fashion that are monumental. Christian Dior was a visionary, who designed his clothing to make women feel beautiful and men find them irresistible. Before I extensively researched Dior, I did not think of him as being the leader of bringing high-‐end fashion to the world on a global. There is nothing non-‐impressive about Dior’s career and his efforts to shape the fashion industry.
Today, the house of Dior operates under Raf Simmons, who replaced John
Galliano. The consumer market loves Dior’s timeless, elegant, yet contemporary designs. In addition, the Dior line features runway, ready-‐to-‐wear, accessories, cosmetics, and fragrances. The current face of Dior is Mila Kunis, who represents the brand with a timeless elegance, which Christian Dior would appreciate.
De Mari 13
De Mari 14
Works Cited Parkins, Ilya, and Lara Haworth. "The Public Time Of Private Space In Dior By Dior." Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 35.4 (2012): 668-‐ 689. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. Charleston, Beth Duncuff. Based on original work by Harold Koda. "Christian Dior (1905–1957)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. "Christian Dior." Vogue UK. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.
De Mari 15