By Valia Nikolaidou,
On October 24, 1957, 65 years ago, one of the most prominent and influential figures of the fashion world died of a heart attack while vacationing in Italy; his name was Christian Dior. A name that is synonymous with style and class, he paved the way with elegant and luxurious clothes, which were the resurgence of fashion after WWII.
Christian Ernest Dior was born in 1905, in the beautiful coastal town of Granville, on the coast of Normandy, France. Born into a respectable and wealthy family, he was initially training to join the French diplomatic forces; however, his artistic talent and inclination could not be ignored. Starting with selling sketches on the street to opening up his own art gallery where he distributed art from world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, he eventually became an assistant designer to Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong; two of the most inspirational couturiers of the Paris fashion scene in the early 20th century.
With the help and support of a wealthy French entrepreneur, he set up his atelier at 30 Avenue Montaigne in a magnificent multi-story building, created by the famous architect Peter Marino. While debuting his first collection at a fashion show on February 12, 1947, Dior revolutionized fashion forever with the introduction of the “New Look”; a tight-fitting jacket along with a voluminous skirt with a – ridiculously for the times — lowered hemline. The stark contrast of the “New Look” from women’s fashion until WWII sparked a lot of controversies but also major profits for the brand, catapulting it into success and “iconic status”. Soon after that, Dior introduced the first female fragrance called “Miss Dior”, in December 1947.
Only a year later, the brand expands overseas and opens its first American store on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. This expansion brings to the table new and revolutionized collections, with Dior being able to dress the biggest Hollywood stars of the time; most notably, Marlene Dietrich in Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950).
The year 1955 brought an extremely important person both for Dior’s history and the fashion world in general, into the limelight. A 19-year-old Yves Saint Laurent was working next to Christian Dior as his assistant, with the latter recognizing the youngster’s talent from early on and informally assigning him the taking over the brand after he perishes. With Dior’s death in 1957 and Saint Laurent’s conscription from the French army in 1960, the brand’s parent company went through bankruptcy and was eventually purchased by LVMH Moët Hennessy, run by the millionaire, Bernard Arnault. With the introduction of Gianfranco Ferre, the new stylistic director, Dior reached the highest level of success since it first debuted and it is still going as strong as ever.
With significant accolades from the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Cesar awards and numerous iconic celebrities who have trusted the brand into styling them, Dior is definitely on the list of the top 10 most influential fashion brands of all time. Some of the most well-known femme Fatales of the 20th century was the brand’s muses; Rita Hayworth, Princess Margaret, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, and, of course, Princess Diana (who later had a Dior handbag named after her – “Lady Dior”) and many others.
Dior’s impact on the fashion world is undisputable and its extensive history is extremely fascinating; even if someone is not interested in that area. Fashion, in general, is so much more than clothes and accessories; it is about how we can express our thoughts, feelings, and the way we perceive the world through our appearance, as well as embrace our individuality.