- The Origin: Christian Dior
- Designer at Piguet and Lucien Lelong
- The Beginning: Dior Maison
- Dior is Dior: A Splendid Atelier
- New Designer: Yves Saint Laurent
- New Leadership: Bernard Arnault
- Financial Information
- 100 Year Celebration of Christian Dior’s Birthday
- Brand Development
- Creative Director
- Current Situation
Christian Dior (1905-1957). A tailor and a designer who was among the most important figures in all of French haute couture. Dior was born in Gramville, in northwestern France. He had a happy childhood in Paris, as well as on holiday in Normandy, in which he was free to abandon himself to his genius for drawing and to a real talent in making costumes for carnival and for informal parties at home.
He already had a definite instinct for art and for the joy of living. He had a clear calling for artistic creation, supported by constant visits to museums and galleries, would emerge only later. After interrupting his university studies in political science, and having put aside the idea of a diplomatic career, which was desired for him by his parents, he started a partnership with his friend Jean Bonjean, the owner of an art gallery in Paris. In this art gallery there where the main figures of the various avant-guards of the 20th century exhibited their works.
But his mother’s death and the bankruptcy of his father’s business changed his life, making his tormented youth the exact opposite of his happy childhood. In 1934, he fell seriously ill with tuberculosis. After a year of recovery in Spain, he went back to Paris and began to work on the fashion section of the weekly Le Figaro Illustré. He designed hats and began to sell sketches of clothing and accessories to several fashion houses. This lean period lasted 7 years, until 1938, when he found a steady job as a clothing designer at the maison Piguet. One of his first successes was a very full skirt that could be worn even in the daytime.
Then, the outbreak of World War II and his service with the army engineers put a stop to everything. The signing of the armistice found him in the south of France where, in his father’s house, he would spend a year and a half enjoying nature and the simple life of a village. Only the insistence of his friends convinced him to return to Paris, in 1941. His place at Piguet wasn’t there waiting for him, but he did join the maison of Lucien Lelong, where Balmain also worked as an assistant. There, for many seasons, he would design the collections, creating very tight skirts as well as flared skirts, bringing success not only to Lelong, but to himself as well, because he became the head dress designer.
By now, he felt ready to manage a maison of his own and knew he could count on an innate talent for business. It was 1946, the year of his partnership with Boussac, who financed him with the considerable sum, for the time, of 60 million francs. In this adventure he was joined by some of Lelong’s key people, such as Raymonde Zehnacker, Marguerite Carré, and Mitza Bricard. A young Pierre Cardin was hired as cutter. His team went to work immediately, in the building on Avenue Montaigne.
In the collective memory, he is linked to the New Look, which, on February 12th 1947, made him famous in one day. It was his first Collection. After the morning presentation, he was pushed out on the balcony of his atelier at Avenue Montaigne 30 to salute a crowd of applauding women. The Paris newspapers were on strike, and so the explosion set off by Dior was felt first in America, where Carmel Snow, the director of Harper’s Bazaar said, “It’s a new look.”
The women’s collection, offered in the Corolla line, later called the New Look, was extremely new in its accentuated femininity, but with an antique touch: a very tiny waist (the corset and girdle were back, like a sudden jump into the past), high breasts, small shoulders, and long, full skirts with tulle petticoats to increase the bulk. It was a look backwards compared to the liberated body of Poiret and the one caressed by Chanel. It was a return to an aristocratic elegance, and also to a battle of hems, from Collection to Collection.
Dior returned the fashion world back to femininity. He launched immense, long blossoming skirts, with waists squeezed by small bodice-jackets, made half the women in Europe dream and tremble with trepidation. His intuition was striking, but the event which really decided his future was a meeting with Marcel Boussac. The French textile entrepreneur had everything to gain from a lifting of the wartime restrictions on fabrics, and each of Dior’s swaying skirts consumed more than 16 yards of fabric, while an evening dress took as much as 27 yards.
Avenue Montaigne, an address which is still today considered magical and pivotal in the expansion and increase in places and regions of a charismatic empire, whose charm was always respectful of the furnishings and atmosphere chosen by Dior: Louis XV armchairs with the grey-and-white medallion that was a symbol of the maison on the back. Another motif associated with the maison was the lily of the valley, used with Dior’s first perfume, Diorissimo, in 1948, and later sprayed generously on the pearl grey fitted carpet in the days of Dior’s many presentations.
The object of both praise and invective, Dior had, by now, become Dior: a splendid atelier with a staff of 85 workers. He could change his style, and he did, naming many lines after letters of the alphabet, such as the H, A, and Y lines. He was able to revive the artisanal skills of the “petites mains,” and could amaze people with hard-to-figure-out technical devices which could make the cut of a garment crushproof.
When Dior was awarded with the recognition of Neiman Marcus, received in America, the designer adjusted his approach to appeal to a more dynamic post-war woman. He lifted the skirts at the back (in 1948), cut soft jackets, and presented tapered skirts (in 1949), making them shorter the following year, matching them with sack-shaped jackets with a horseshoe neck. In 1954 the silhouette became softer, waists were no longer squeezed in an H-line, and a love-hate relationship with the sack dress was about to begin.
In 1955 came the A line and the Y line, with the dominating motifs the large V necks and dresses matched with immense stoles. In that same year his pursuit of the caftan had a marked effect on fashion, with a delicate high-waist dress in chiffon and a sheath dress as tight as a corset. From perfumes to prêt-à-porter, from accessories to underwear, with licenses and new boutiques in Latin America and Cuba, Dior seemed to want to put every possible avenue of distribution under his own name in order to guarantee its long life.
He launched stiletto heels and excelled in the attention given to accessories such as hats, gloves, and jewellery.
In 1957, the maison presented Dior’s last Collection, a variation on the theme of the vareuse, a kind of blouse with buttoned flap pockets that falls loosely at the sides and is often worn with a khaki bush jacket. Christian Dior passed away in the Summer of 1957 in Montecatini. He became an immortal, and one of the most admired haute couture empires in the world became a legend.
The 1958 Collection would be designed by Yves Saint-Laurent, who three years before had become Dior’s assistant and heir. The Collection was called Trapezium and it was a triumph. Called for military service in 1960, Saint-Laurent would, on his return, create his own atelier, as his place at Dior had been taken by Marc Bohan, someone who, over thirty years, would express the spirit of the founder in a measured and creatively elegant way.
In 1988, a big retrospective at the Pavillon Marsan in the Musée des Arts de la Mode at the Louvre celebrated Dior and the new leadership of Bernard Arnault, the wizard of the luxury goods business. In that same year, the maison opened its first boutique in New York, as the number one French company in the U.S. did not yet have a point-of-sale in the Big Apple. The following year, Marc Bohan left. Then the Italian Gianfranco Ferré arrived.
In four annual collections of high fashion and prêt-à-porter, some of which were memorable, starting with revived images of early Dior and gradually emphasizing a timeless luxury that was daring and magic in its opulence. He developed a range of creativity suitable to both the present day and to the prestige of an illustrious maison, marked by the perfumes Dune and Dolce Vita. In more recent times, after Ferré’s return to Italy, the impeccable beauty typical of the griffe wasn’t always apparent in the Collections of John Galliano, who joined Dior as Creative Director in 1996, which were more prone to irony and excess than to the voluptuous grace of Dior’s perfection. Also, later in July 2000 the 32 year old French-Tunisian designer Hedi Slimane takes over the men’s prêt-à-porter from Patrick Lavoix.
By January 2002 Dior renews Sàfilo’s license to produce and distribute the eyeglass Collection manufactured by them since 1996 and which, in the following year, will also have a men’s line. The year 2001 closes with a deficit. Christian Dior SA Holding, owned 65% by Bernard Arnault, shows a loss of €95 million, on a 6% increase in sales, with revenues of €12.567 billion. The loss is attributed to reorganization costs of the retail operations and to investments needed to reorganize the U.S. business after September 11th. In 2000, the profit was €251 million.
In April 2002 Dior opens a shop in Rome, in one of the most evocative places in the city, the corner of via Condotti overlooking Piazza di Spagna. A small space is reserved for the jewellery designer Victoire de Castellane. Later, in June Hedi Slimane is nominated best designer of the year. The prize is given by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. By the end of 2002, the company shows a net profit of €178 million, against a loss of €95 million in 2001. The operating profit has increased 31%.
In March 2003 Vincenzo Moccia, 43, becomes director of Dior Italy, after having been director of Bulgari Italy and of Gucci for northern Italy. The Italian market has contributed a turnover of €492 million (an increase of 41%) and an operating profit of €33 million to Dior.
In Paris, the Dior woman surprises once again and is dressed in latex from head to toe. Galliano has designed the 2004 prêt-à-porter Collection for his usual crazy, sexy, and exaggerated woman, half geisha and half clown, part Japanese and part Chinese. There are skirts and miniskirts in feathered tulle, filmy and billowing, worn with long jackets; latex skirts that look like a second skin but are decorated with a thousand flowers; blouses that are tight on the hips, similar to mini-dresses and draped like a peplum, with bat-like sleeves; very tight trousers with laces that reach the waist; clouds of silk and chiffon; high heels; platform shoes 8 inches high with ankle laces and very thin strings sparkling with studs; colored fur coats; fake flower-patterned kimonos; and important and over-the-top op-art dresses with women covered up to the nose by a latex muzzle.
Later in April, Sidney Toledano, the president of Christian Dior SA announced that 15 new boutiques will be opened worldwide in addition to the current 145. In 2002 there were 23 new boutiques, and in 2003 there were 15, part of 200 planned within 2007. In Paris, where there already are 15, a new mega-store is opened on Rue Royale.
2005 marks the centennial celebration of Christian Dior’s birth. To celebrate the anniversary, the French Minister of Culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, opens the exhibit “L’Homme du Siècle” in Granville, in Dior’s childhood home, which is now a museum, Les Rumbs. The celebrations continue in Paris, during Fashion Week, with a show that covers Dior’s entire life, with history, the theater, his mother in an Edwardian-style dress, the little boy Christian in a sailor’s suit, and so on, until his success with the divas who visited his atelier. The show is “played” by today’s top models, and mentions his passion for dancing and Peru. Later in 2007, Hedi Slimane left the fashion house and Kris Van Assche replaced her as artistic director.
In april 2008 Sidney Toledano, president and CEO of Christian Dior Couture, announces the nomination of, Delphine Arnault Gancia, as general Vice Director of Christian Dior Couture. This year is characterized by the crisis that affected the entire world, but Sidney Toledano and John Galliano remain successful in having very high revenues, mostly due to the American market. They declare that accessories, woman’s ready-to-wear and Haute Couture increased the business. In 2008, Christian Dior Group records €8.2 billions of sales, gaining 11% compared to the previous year and a net income of €352 millions. All this is mostly due to the emergent markets China, Russia and Middle East.
In 2009, Dior launches the new advertising campaign for the Lady Dior bag, with the french actress Marion Cotillard as testimonial. Camille Miceli, nominated artistic director of costume jewellery and artistic advisor, enters the group and in this period, after nine years, the high jewellery and watches shop reopen in the french capital.
In 2010, Christian Dior and Safilo Group announces that their license agreement for design, world wide production and distribution of the Dior eyewear and sunglasses collection has been extended to december 31 2017. This year, the revenues amounts to €21.1 billion with an increase of 19% compared to 2009, due to the good performances in Europe, Asia and Usa. On these bases, Christian Dior announces the project of opening and renewal of boutiques on high potential markets.
In 2011 after being house’s creative director for 15 years, John Galliano was fired by Dior because of making antisemitic and racist insults in a drunken rant. His Autumn/Winter 2011 fashion show went on during Paris Fashion Week without him. Also, during this period Pushkin museum of Moscow praises the maison Dior with the exhibition with the title of “Inspiration Dior”. The exhibition tells the story of the maison through the works of art that have inspired monsieur Christian Dior.
Later in 2012, Raf Simons was pointed as chief creative director. The Belgian designer, aged 44, will be responsible of the women Haute Couture collections, ready-to-wear and accessories. The french fashion house declares that Simons will project the style of the maison towards the 21°century, creating a real change. Shortly after the announcement of Raf Simons entry, his first collection of Haute Couture is presented in Paris. It was a collection in the tradition of the maison, revisited in a modern and architectural key, with his minimalist style and very far from the style of Galliano. The designer astounds with one of the best collections of the brand. A real selection of ideas from a designer with a rare gift: the ability of mixing modernity with history.
In 2012, Dior launch its first online magazine, called Diormag. The news on the website are updated daily with informations regarding the global activites of the griffe. After one year waiting, on april 9 2012 the Raf Simons era starts, as he is nominated the new artistic director of the maison. In 2013, maison Dior engages the actress Jennifer Laurence as testimonial of the advertising campaign for Miss Dior bag, with $20 million contract for three years.
After one year from Raf Simons entry in the french maison, Christian Dior Couture reveals that profits have increased of 31%, while incomes have grown of 14%. Such results are also due to the influence of Kris Van Assche, creative director of menswear department. In the meanwhile, Delphine Arnault Gancia, daughter of Bernard Arnault, head of LVMH group, announces her decision to give up her collaboration with the maison Dior to work exclusively for Louis Vuitton.
During an interview in 2014, Sidney Toledano confirms that their success came from the very high quality of their production, exalting Made in Italy and promoting productive firms also in Veneto and in Tuscany. Besides, he declares that the maison produces in Italy because it is one of the few countries where it is mantained a beautiful craftmanship, due to the familiar tradition. He had already told Arnault that Lady Dior bag could be made only in Florence in the ’90s.
In 2015, Raf Simons decides to engage pop star Rihanna as testimonial for the “Secret Garden” campaign. It is a big step forward, as in seventy years of the brand history she is the first black woman. Serge Brunschwig, Dior Chief operating officer up till now, achieves the role of Dior Homme division president. In the same year, Dior together with Chanel and Louis Vuitton are in the lead of the ranking made by Brandwatch considering the best and the more influential brands on social media.
After 3 years, on October 2015, Raf Simons has decided not to renew his contract and to leave Dior for personal reasons. The inside team of the french griffe is asked to design the spring\summer 2016 couture collection and the fall\winter 2016-2017 ready-to-wear collection. Because of the exit of Raf Simons, the revenues show a slight slowdown in the second semester of the exercise, with €961 million in sales.
In july 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first female creative director at Dior in its 70 years of history. A woman with a long career in fashion, first for Fendi and then for Valentino, always close to Pierpaolo Piccioli. M.G. Chiuri is the first woman to take the reins of the brand: to date there have been only man like Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferrè, John Galliano and Raf Simons. The appointment of an Italian woman confirms the renewal of the made in Italy creativity.
In 2016, Dior flies to Melbourne to celebrate seventy years of the maison. The work of the french couturier is the protagonist of a retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria.
On December 31 2016, Safilo and Dior renewed their agreement till 2020 for the design, production and distribution of the eyewear and sunglasses collections. Furthermore, this period is characterized by the exploit of Alessandro Micheli slippers and the T-shirts with revolutionary and feminist slogans by Maria grazia Chiuri.
2017 marks the 70th anniversary for Dior, the French fashion house celebrated its anniversary with exhibition called “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams”. The exhibition took place in Musée des Arts Décoratifs in paris, where more than 300 breathtaking gowns from across decades were displayed.
Also, Baby Dior arrives on Instagram. Dior is one of the few brands to have created an account dedicated exclusively to childrens wear. Also, Natalie Portman has become the testimonial for the Miss Dior fragrance, producing several beautiful floral campaigns. She is invited to the south of France to the harvest the Rose de Grasse, a rare and precious flower at the heart of the Miss Dior fragrance.
Dior Homme is on the point of entering the Rinascente Duomo, Milano, after the closing up of via Montenapoleone store due to unsatisfactory sales.