the a-z of dior

As we get set to celebrate 70 years of Dior with the National Gallery of Victoria’s exclusive exhibition, we dive deep into the world of the house that changed fashion forever.

by Briony Wright and i-D Staff
|
26 June 2017, 2:10am

Raf Simons for Dior

A is for A-Line: After opening his eponymous house and introducing the world to new silhouettes including the Hourglass, Zig Zag, and the H Line, Christian Dior eventually unveiled the A-Line dress in 1955, giving fashion a name for one of its most enduringly referenced shapes.

B is for Brand Ambassadors: Ever since Dior employed house mannequins in the 40s, the label has understood the power of a strong ambassador. For decades they've worked with a roll call of personalities who embody the spirit of the label. From Natalie Portman for Miss Dior and Marion Cotillard for Lady Dior to Charlize Theron in those J'Adore ads and Rihanna wearing Dior to everything, together they've created some extremely memorable fashion moments. Earlier this year Dior Homme designer Kris Van Asche even turned to his pop culture heroes casting Boy George and A$AP Rocky in a campaign.

C is for Christian Dior: The man who began it all was 41 years old when he left his job making wartime fashion to launch his luxury label in 1946. Christian Dior was a savvy businessman with wide interests that influenced his designs and people responded immediately to his era-defining, fabric-heavy frocks and feminine aesthetic. Viewing his label as a global enterprise, Christian Dior influenced the way women dressed around the world before passing away suddenly ten years later, leaving behind a huge legacy.

D is for Dior Homme: Dior Homme was launched by Marc Bohan in 1970 as the menswear division of the house. Gaining momentum over the years, in 2000 Patrick Lavoix was replaced by the poster boy of millennial menswear, Hedi Slimane, who helped shape Dior Homme into the progressive, inventive and culturally relevant label we know today. From dressing musicians like David Bowie and bands like The Libertines, his suits were immaculately cool, skinny and sought after. Karl Lagerfeld even joked that the reason he lost weight was so he could fit into one of Hedi's suits. Kris Van Assche took over as artistic director in 2007 and has slowly softened the designs, drawing on early Dior codes to create collections with incredible attention to detail and nods to the cultures and subcultures that have influenced him.

E is for Eva Green: Eva Green starred in an epic ad for Dior's Midnight Poison fragrance in 2008. Shot by Wong Kar Wai and with music by Muse, the film has Eva swinging in a huge blue ball gown through an opera house full of people and is an early example of Dior effortlessly melding high fashion with popular culture.

F is for Flowers: Christian Dior loved flowers. He made dresses in the shape of them, named collections after them and even sewed one of his favourites, lily of the valley, into the hems of select garments before they were shown as a lucky charm. Raf Simons paid the ultimate tribute to Dior's fondness for flowers at his debut autumn/winter 2012 couture show, when he decorated five rooms inside a Parisian mansion, from floor to ceiling, with one million real blooms.

G is for Gianfranco Ferré: Gianfranco was the third creative director at Dior, taking over in 1989 from Marc Bohan, who had run the show for almost thirty years. A hot-blooded Italian, Gianfranco fused the silhouettes of the 80s - the big shoulders and cinched waists - with Dior's classic lines in opulent gowns that seemed appropriate on the supers who wore them. His love of luxury manifested in garments made from rich fabrics like fur, silk, satin, suede, velvet and leather. He was replaced by John Galliano after seven years.

H is for Hats: Hats have long been an integral part of the Dior look and for the past 21 years, milliner to the stars Stephen Jones has worked with the house on their incredible headwear. From taxidermy animal hats to giant feather headdresses and Maria Chiuri's gauzy visors and immaculately light, whispy floral headbands, he has interpreted the collections over the years with the crowning glory of the looks.

I is for i-D: We've had a long and strong relationship with Dior, covering the shows, shooting the collections and reporting related news for over 35 years. For our 35th anniversary, Dior's creative director Raf Simons was invited to create a collector's edition cover wrap for the magazine. The result was a pink hued collage featuring Julia Nobis as an ethereal, modern Dior muse.

J is for John Galliano: When John Galliano moved from his position as head designer at Givenchy to helm Dior in 1996, he brought with him a new theatricality and worldliness. Galliano's collections for Dior were wild and imaginative and deconstructed the Dior codes in eccentrically show stopping pieces. Always the showman, Galliano's work was colourful and provocative and took the label into unchartered territory. With a love of theatre and provocation, one of Galliano's collections was inspired by the homeless and others featured sadistic priests, maids with hickeys, rockabillies and scary clowns. As we know, it all came violently crashing down when Galliano was filmed in 2011 making anti-semitic remarks while drunk and consequently removed from the house in dramatic fashion.

K is for Kris Van Assche: Born in Belgium, Kris Van Assche is the quietly confident creative director at Dior Homme. As a young designer, Kris studied at the Antwerp Royal Academy before moving to Paris to work at Yves Saint Laurent as assistant to Hedi Slimane. It was some years later, in 2008, when Kris took over from his former mentor at Dior Homme in an understandably symmetrical manoeuvre. Since then, Van Assche has steered Dior Homme towards a bright, modern future, creating collections which strike a balance between tradition and creativity, as he reinvents and reinterprets codes of dressing for a new generation of men.

L is for Larry Clark: Not only did filmmaker Larry Clark model in Dior Homme's autumn/winter 16 campaign, he also made a striking short film for the label when Kris Van Assche, who's admitted to being a huge fan, approached him. Shot at the Palais de Tokyo, where Larry shot parts of The Smell of Us, the film follows a group of young skaters wearing new season Dior shot in Larry's inimitable style. When Dior approached Larry about filming something for them, he told them, "I'm not a fashion photographer", and Dior's very appropriate response was, "That's why we want you."

M is for Maria Grazia Chiuri: When Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri left her seventeen year role at Valentino in 2016, taking over from Raf Simons at Dior, she became the first woman to lead the creative side in the label's 69-year history. In her first, whimsically modern collection, Maria played on the house's ultra feminine heritage and really nailed Dior's answer to the question of what it means to be a woman today. As a designer fascinated by modern women, and with her 20 year old daughter Rachel as a muse, Maria looks set to take Dior into bold new territory.

N is for New Look: The 'New Look' term was coined by Harper's Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow in response to Christian Dior's first collection in 1947. And it stuck. Characterised by the small, cinched waist and full skirt that we have long associated with house, Dior's early designs are credited with reviving the post-war French fashion industry and are interpreted in the label's designs to this day.

O is for Opera Garnier: A few years after taking the reigns, John Galliano staged one of Dior's most elaborate runways at the Paris Opera House to showcase the spring 98 haute couture collection. Taking over the entire space, models dressed in gowns and suits inspired by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and the Marchesa Luisa Casati, swanned down a huge staircase. Tim Blanks has called the parade one of his favourite fashion shows ever describing it as "like every single drug experience everybody's ever had in their life concentrated into ten minutes and then times one thousand."

P is for Pierre Cardin: Pierre Cardin was designing outfits for Jean Cocteau films in the early 40s before he began working at a newly opened Dior in 1946. Pierre worked in the Dior atelier, helping to design the first collections before leaving to start his own company in 1950, with Christian Dior sending him roses as congratulations.

Q is for Queen Margaret: Actually, it was the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret who wore a Dior gown for her 21st birthday at Blenheim Palace and declared it her "favourite dress of all time."

R is for Robert Piguet: Robert Piguet was a Parisian-based designer in the early 30s who gave Christian Dior his start in fashion when he employed the unknown designer and asked him to create three collections for the company. Dior was even quoted as saying, "Robert Piguet taught me the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come." Dior left Piguet when he was called up for military service but his experience was invaluable in terms of his own label.

S is for Sisters: For her first campaign, Maria Grazia Chiuri celebrated girl-power when she cast 21 year old identical twin sisters May and Ruth Bell to model the ready-to-wear spring-summer 2017 collection. Shot by Brigitte Lacombe as part of their #TheWomenBehindTheLens project, the sisters perfectly embody the new, cool, young, feminine direction of the label.

T is for Toru Kamei: Toru Kamei is a Japanese artist who collaborated with Kris Van Assche on the Dior spring/summer 17 collection, lending his solemn still life paintings of skulls and flowers to pieces in the range.

U is for Urban Dictionary: In this officially unofficial dictionary, Dior is described as meaning, "an expression of something that is cool, synonyms would include dope, sick, awesome, good and Gucci" in modern vernacular.

V is for Vivier, Roger Vivier: In 1937 Paris, Roger Vivier founded his shoe company and was soon designing footwear for the greatest fashion houses in the world. in 1953 Christian Dior employed him to make shoes for the house and he continued to produce Dior's shoes for the following decade. With his designs known as the 'Fabergé of Footwear', Roger Vivier was responsible for revolutionising the shape of women's footwear and is even credited with inventing the now iconic stiletto.

W is for 'We Should All be Feminists': When Maria Chiuri sent models down the runway at her debut show wearing a statement t-shirt bearing the title of an essay by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she began a mini movement with dedicated followers taking the top from the runway onto the streets. Everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Jessica Chastain and Natalie Portman were shot wearing it out and about and all proceeds from sales of the t-shirt were donated to Rihanna's charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, supporting education and health services for poor communities.

X is for Xhibition: At the end of August, the National Gallery of Victoria will host a world exclusive exhibition to celebrate 70 years of Dior. Come with us on a room-by-room tour here.

Y is for Yves Saint Laurent: When the French editor of Vogue introduced Yves Saint Laurent to Christian Dior in the early 50s, the pair hit it off and Yves was hired by the French house as a junior designer. Yves Saint Laurent honed his craft at the maison and, shortly before he died, Christian Dior announced the younger designer as his successor. Just three years into his contract with Dior however, Yves Saint Laurent was forced out of the role as he was conscripted to the Army. Despite this setback, he went on to be one of the most celebrated and influential designers of his lifetime.

Z is for Zodiac: It turns our the Dior ateliers enjoy reading their horoscopes in the workshop each morning, a practice reflected in a collection of Dior fine jewellery in the shape of each of the zodiac signs.

The NGV's The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture runs from the 27th August - 7th November, exclusive to Melbourne.

For a limited time, Qantas is offering sale fares to Melbourne*, making it easier to experience this amazing exhibition. Sale ends 23:59 (AEST) 3 July 2017, unless sold out prior. Selected travel dates and conditions apply. Visit qantas.com for details .

Credits


Text Briony Wright