70 years | DIORMAG

09th April
events

Dior and Granville: The Roots of the Legend

Yesterday, Christian Dior’s childhood home, in Normandy, was the setting for the opening of an exhibition titled Dior and Granville: The Roots of the Legend. With this year marking both the museum’s twentieth and the House’s seventieth anniversary, it pays tribute to the couturier’s childhood, a period in his life that would profoundly inform his future work, and influence the creations of his successors.

It was at Granville, at the beginning of the 20th century, that Christian Dior spent the first years of his life, in the turn-of-the-century setting of the villa named Les Rhumbs. Of the building with its soft pink and gray stone roughcast facade, perched on a cliff top and surrounded by an English garden, he kept “the sweetest and most wonderful memories”, he wrote in his memoirs, before exclaiming: “What can I say? My life, my style owe almost everything to its location and its architecture.” Curated by the fashion historian Florence Müller, the exhibition Dior and Granville: The Roots of the Legend opens as a dialogue between Christian Dior’s childhood home and the designs produced in his couture house, over the course of an itinerary equal parts historical and stylistic. Spread across three levels, the exhibition conjures up the atmosphere of the era during which Christian Dior was living at Granville, supported by the use of archival documents. On the ground floor, the various rooms each signify specific aspects that decisively shaped his personality. His artistic flair was fired by the Japanese exoticism of the entrance hall and the rococo decoration of the grand drawing room, while the dining room expresses his Normandy appetite, as much gourmand as gourmet. His entrepreneurial side comes through in his father’s study, while the mixture of scents and colors in the garden brought out the dreamer in him. The first floor is occupied by the bedrooms, each evoking a member of the family in displays that juxtapose photographs, portraits and other personal objects with haute couture dresses. Christian Dior’s creations find an echo in the objects that influenced them, such as the elegant outfits worn by his mother, Madeleine, or carnival costumes. The top floor finishes telling the story of the origins of the Dior legend, showing how the couturier’s extraordinarily imaginative output, revisited by his successors, remains an indelible reference today.

12th February
Heritage

12 February 1947 – 12 February 2017: Backstage

As the guests throng into the salons of 30 Avenue Montaigne, the excitement in the models’ cabine begins to mount. It's in this little room that they prepare to twirl in the couturier’s inaugural collection.  

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Eugene Kammerman/Gamma-Rapho

From the beginnings of his couture house, Christian Dior recruited a team of "young girls" to accompany him through all phases of his collection, from early fittings to the realization of his creations. In his memoirs he writes: "The dress and its models are elements that are often as inseparable as the dress and its fabric. My models are the life of my dresses.” Noëlle, Paule, Yolande, Lucile, Tania and Marie-Thérèse as a result became among his most important collaborators. Those he tenderly dubs his "chéries" are singular beauties, older or younger, sophisticated or ingénues, so that each can embody the ideal allure the couturier dreams up.

It’s almost ten-thirty; the entire cabine is on the alert. Hairdressers and make-up artists give a final brush and comb to the models, who must quickly take off their white smocks to slip on a couture design. As the premières d’atelier make the final adjustments, the dressers juggle with hats, jewelry and other accessories. Marie-Therese is on tenterhooks: she's the one opening the show. When the announcer’s voice calls out "Number One! Number one!” she passes through the gray satin curtains very quickly, almost slipping, moving from one salon to another, with a fluid, elegant and graceful gait, as far as the grand staircase. The models have the same numbers of exits, organized by category in a well-defined order. Suits and town ensembles are shown first. Then come the dressier looks: for cocktail, for evening, short or very long, a fireworks explosion of shimmering dresses sashay past to thunderous applause. Hidden away in the cabine, Monsieur Dior blocks his ears, unable to believe what's happening. As the final bouquet, richly embroidered dresses and the bride’s gown close the show. The success is indisputable. It is time to greet the guests, who cheer a couturier moved to tears. This recognition will mark his life: “Whatever happiness I might have in my life, nothing can surpass what I felt at that moment,” he would write in his memoirs.  

12th February
Heritage

12 February 1947 – 12 February 2017: The Jungle Print

For Christian Dior, "the spirit of newness is the same one as fashion", a principle that he applies since 1947 by being the first couturier to utilize the coat of the panther on fabrics printed with a motif he names Jungle.

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Photo Pat English

Beginning with his very first show, Christian Dior displays the desire for a new interpretation of tradition. Fabric is one of the foundations of haute couture, its choice is paramount. He favors several motifs, such as the pinstripe, borrowed from menswear, or the panther, a symbol of virile power since antiquity.

 

As a couturier, he is always looking around him for "the spots of color that will animate the streets tomorrow," as he notes in his memoirs. The strong personality of his muse Mitzah Bricard, with her elegant extravagance and her panther chiffon scarf always knotted around her wrist, inspires the feline nuances that he integrated into his creations since 1947. With the Lyon-based silk manufacturer Bianchini-Férier, Christian Dior develops the exclusive Jungle print, which is initially destined for the looks Africaine, Jungle and Reynold in his historic collection. The success of these three dresses with their slim and sensual line in panther crêpe or chiffon establishes the place of this spotted motif in haute couture.

Christian Dior went on to make it an identifying code of his House not only in the collections and accessories, but also in perfumery. In 1949, René Gruau glorified the Miss Dior perfume with his famous drawing of a woman's hand delicately posed on a panther’s paw. One finds the print in 1955 on a highly desirable raincoat, then in the lingerie and the ready-to-wear collections in the 1960s. Monsieur Dior’s universe continues to inspire the House’s creations, which have been revisited and rolled out under his successors. No surprise, therefore, that John Galliano reinvented the famous print, which he had hand-painted on a dress named Mitzah Dior, from his first haute couture collection, for spring-summer 1997. This woman who had such an influence on the creator was "one of the few people who have elegance for the sole reason of living," as he states in his autobiography. Her animal grace, her daring and her innate sophistication are still imprinted on the Dior syntax today.

12th February
Heritage

12 February 1947 – 12 February 2017: The Bar Suit

Whittled waist, exaggerated hips, gentle shoulders and an enhanced bust, these are the stylistic characteristics of the New Look. And as the house of Dior today celebrates seventy years since its first show, we take a deeper look at the Bar, the iconic suit of this revolutionary femininity. 

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Eugene Kammerman/Gamma-Rapho

The ultimate destination for a late-afternoon drink, the bar of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée inspires Christian Dior to design what would become his first show’s statement suit. Among the ninety looks in this audacious collection, the Bar has been the most adulated and reproduced in the fashion press since 1947. In a duo of sober colors, its architectural silhouette sets itself out as the New Look emblem, perfectly combining all the features of the new Corolle and En Huit lines. The construction of its ivory silk shantung jacket, with its snug collar and rounded peplums, is entrusted to Pierre Cardin, then premier of the atelier tailleur. He cuts with an almost mathematical rigor, with a multitude of darts and cutouts. Because what Christian Dior is seeking is to “slim down the body without losing the waist.”

But during the first fittings on the model Tania, the peplums lie flat on her narrow hips. Some padding is necessary... The young tailor then has the brilliant idea of going to the local pharmacy to buy surgical cotton wool that he folds like an accordion to create the desired volume. And it works! The black pleated wool skirt requires almost twelve meters of fabric, not counting the tulle petticoats. And to give the design even more refinement Christian Dior revives a forgotten tradition by giving it a lining of three meters of percale and taffeta. After a hundred and fifty hours of work, the Bar is born.

Having become a House reference, this legendary suit lends itself to endless reinterpretation. In all the other Christian Dior collections, one comes across the subtle curves of its silhouette, which affirms itself as the identifier of the Dior allure. The couturier’s successors have endlessly reinterpreted it, right up to Maria Grazia Chiuri, who revisits it seventy years later with a transparent skirt and a message t-shirt in her ready-to-wear spring-summer 2017 show.

12th February
Heritage

12 February 1947 – 12 February 2017: Miss Dior​

Femininity being something he wished to revolutionize in its entirety, Christian Dior choose to present, at the same time as his first show, his first fragrance, Miss Dior. The scent of an eternal young woman full of freshness and sensuality, this perfume-manifesto is also celebrating its seventieth anniversary today.

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Association Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris 2017

Spray more perfume!” With his first haute couture fashion show soon to start and the guests about to arrive at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Christian Dior dashes from one salon to the next to gives his final instructions.

Everything needs to be perfect, in harmony with the new vision of the woman he’s exalting: sensual, radiant with joy, daring. In other words revolutionary, from the haute couture dress that shapes her curves, to the seductive scent of her perfume .

The notes of Miss Dior, which float in the air and captivate the guests at the door, are all this at once. A “new scent” that is inseparable from the New Look. "This is why I became a perfumer," writes Christian Dior in his memoirs, "so that every woman I dress leaves a trail of desire behind her."

With Miss Dior, Christian Dior wanted "a perfume that smells of love", contrasting with the heavy fragrances that were then in vogue. In the weeks leading up to the show, he pays as much care and attention to the development of his fragrance as to his haute couture dresses, until he finds the perfect potion. It will be a green chypre, in which the top notes of clary sage and bergamot sparkle over a rose heart, against a pulsating warm base of green moss and patchouli. A young and elegant perfume, that now needed nothing more than a suitably appropriate name. Only a few days before February 12, when Christian Dior was still trying to come up with that name, his beloved sister Catherine entered the room unexpectedly. And Mitzah Bricard, the couturier’s muse and advisor, uttered: "Look, it’s Miss Dior!" Miss Dior... since 1947, this name, born of one of these “accidents of chance" dear to the couturier-perfumer, has become the symbol of assured femininity and seductive elegance. A true icon that François Demachy, the House’s exclusive perfumer-creator, revisits to exalt the presence of the young women of today.

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