In 1959, the Dior haute couture collection and the house models took a trip to Moscow. We bring you the news footage from the time and an exclusive interview with Kouka, one of the models.
They stand posing on the stairway, dressed in comfortable travel suits, skirt hems 40cm from the ground, the shoes narrow and the busts proud. All in Dior. They're smiling for the Gaumont newsreel cameras that have followed them as far as Moscow. Used to public attention, they were unquestionably twelve of the most beautiful women in Paris, twelve of the favorite models at the house of Dior arriving in Russia, then the USSR, in order to present the new haute couture collection designed by Yves Saint Laurent, successor to Christian Dior, since the master's death two years before. It's 1959 and the event has had an astounding effect. Its impact in Russia could easily be compared to that which Christian Dior's New Look had on the rest of the world in 1947.
It's important to put things in context.
Soviet Russia had allowed women little room to express their femininity. Life was hard, at least as much as it had been in France in the first few years after the war when ration books still controlled daily life. And didn't those Parisian women of 1947 - who hadn't felt like women in years, still wearing dull fabrics and heavy clothes made all the more so thanks to footwear that tended more to the heavy-duty boot than the sleek pump, with sad silhouettes and lifeless looks - bear more than a passing resemblance to the Muscovite women of 1959? The shock reaction was the same.
The Russian women discovered what femininity could be. The room in the Palace of Culture might be big, but it was still necessary to organize three fashion shows per day over an entire week to allow for the tens of thousands of desirous admirers to attend this celebration of French haute couture. And to draw a further parallel, Miss Dior , the house's first perfume, was diffused liberally into the room during the Moscow shows, just as it had been in the salon at 30, Avenue Montaigne, on February 12, 1947.
Kouka was one of the star models in the house of Dior, and she was on this trip in 1959. She wore Bar suits and long evening dresses. She recalls her experiences at the show, exclusively for DiorMag.