dior does dallas
A new exhibition examines the storied legacy and legendary creative directors of the house, from Christian Dior to Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Image © James Florio
Since Christian Dior founded his namesake brand in 1946, the French fashion house has been a trailblazer in the industry. Dior's evolution and widespread influence is in part due to its list of incredibly talented creative directors through the years, which includes iconic names such as Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. A recently opened exhibition, titled Dior: From Paris to the World, explores the legacy of Dior and these directors’ indelible mark on the prominent couture house.
On view through September 1 at the Dallas Museum of Art, the same city where Dior received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award decades earlier, Dior: From Paris to the World celebrates the house’s vibrant transformations throughout time. Originally curated by Florence Müller, the visitors are lead through a magnificent presentation of all things Dior — including 200-plus haute couture dresses, accessories, personal photographs, sketches, and more.
“What I really love about this exhibition, and from working on it, was that I think about it as if you are doing a needlepoint embroidery of a petal,” says Sarah Schleuning, senior curator of decorative arts and design at DMA and curator of the Dallas presentation. “The center part where you always pull from is Christian Dior and his vision, and each one of these creative directors have picked up or mined a certain aspect of him and have made it their own. It is all about connections between how each one interprets or takes that DNA of Dior. It is like a prism — each one has their own lens and their own beam they project through it, but it is all still drawing from that same central core.”
From the extravagant designs of John Galliano, to the sophisticated minimalism brought in by Raf Simons, i-D explores the various different directors of Dior that are celebrated in this exhibit.
Christian Dior, 1946-1957
From 1946 to 1957, Christian Dior was at the helm of fashion. His “New Look” designs, which featured narrow waists, pronounced hips, and a specific air of glamour, remain iconic even today. However, Dior’s foray into fashion may have been a surprise even to himself. Born in 1905 to a distinguished family in Normandy, his journey into the industry is a storied, albeit unexpected, one: Although he studied political science and dreamed he would have a career either as an architect or a composer, Dior was a gallery director in Paris and showed the work of renowned artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Dali. It was not until the Great Depression that he decided to become a fashion illustrator to help make ends meet. From here, Dior held design positions under notable fashion designers, such as Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, before eventually deciding to create his own couture house in December of 1946.
Yves Saint Laurent, 1958-1960
When Dior suddenly passed away at the age of 52 from a massive heart attack in 1957, Dior’s then 21-year old assistant took over the reins as the head designer at House of Dior. This young assistant’s name was Yves Saint Laurent. The first collection created under Saint Laurent, which was adored by many, was a reflection of the free-spirited nature of that time’s counterculture movement and featured liberating design details such as trapeze dresses and loose silhouettes. However, Saint Laurent’s 1960 collection for the couture house was not well-received and he departed soon after to start his own namesake brand with business partner, Pierre Berge.
Marc Bohan, 1961-1989
For nearly three decades, French-born fashion designer Marc Bohan breathed his design expertise into Dior. Through his many collections, Bohan was able to seamlessly combine late-founder Christian Dior’s love of traditional couture details with the trends of the current time — Bohan often referenced pop culture and psychedelic fads, and was influenced greatly by modern art. Besides creating some of the brand’s most recognizable collections, the designer also dressed a long list of notable clientele including Princess Grace of Monaco, actress Sophia Loren, and socialite Betsy Bloomingdale.
Gianfranco Ferre, 1989-1996
The arrival of Gianfranco Ferre at Dior in 1989 marked the first time a non-French designer was designated to spearhead the fashion house. Born in Milan in the mid-1940s, Ferre, who started his career in fashion by designing accessories, brought a certain level of exuberance to the Parisian couture house. Inspired in part by Baroque architecture and artists such as Cezanne, Leger, and Lucio Fontana, his designs often featured exaggerated silhouettes, layered textures, and intricate detailing.
John Galliano, 1997-2011
John Galliano’s time at Dior was famously marked by imaginative designs and elaborate silhouettes rooted strongly in storytelling. The unconventional designer’s work often included over-the-top detailing, unexpected patterns, and unpredictable references, which transformed each garment into a work of art. It is said that before designing each new collection Galliano would travel the world, filling up his scrapbooks with photos, objects, and souvenirs as he went along. He would then later revisit these momentos to draw inspiration for his designs. Currently, Galliano is the creative director of fellow French design house, Maison Margiela.
Raf Simons, 2012-2015
Following Galliano’s colorful run, Raf Simons ushered in a period of understated sophistication at Dior. Although Simons has a background in furniture and industrial design and is known for his minimalist approach, the designer still stayed true to Dior’s famous silhouettes while designing the womenswear collections. Until this day, Simons’ still continues to have an impact on fashion and beyond — Kanye West cited Simons as an influence for his first YEEZY runway collection, and rap group A$AP MOB released a song inspired by the designer, titled “RAF”, in 2017.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, 2016-Present
Italian-born designer Maria Grazia Chiuri made history in 2016 when she became Dior’s first ever woman to head House of Dior. Through the collections she has designed, Chiuri has become not only known for beautiful silhouettes and surrealistic influences, but also for the integration of female empowerment into the collections. For instance, Chiuri has incorporated writings from feminist authors, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Robin Morgan, into her work.