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Designer Analysis:  Christian  Dior               By:  Dale  De  Mari     Intro  to  Fashion  Business     Fall  2013    

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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  

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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”.    

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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.    

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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    

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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  

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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,  

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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  

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are found  in  museums,  which  often  run  Dior  exhibits.  There  is  also  a  large  vintage   market  on  the  internet,  for  example  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.              

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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.  

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Christian Dior  

Designer Analysis: Christian Dior

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