Thirty years since the Christian Dior Museum in Granville began its archive, this wide-reaching exhibition will be the first with enough scope to truly pay homage to this priceless collection, expanded over the years to incorporate new treasures. A trip back in time that also covers how the couturier's childhood home became this world-renowned museum. This is where Christian Dior grew up. In Granville. For a long time, his designs were inspired by this pink and grey residence known as "Les Rhumbs". Bathed in culture and greenery on the cliff top, its English-style garden is hidden away from the bustle of the city.
a legendary setting
"I have the most tender and amazing memories of my childhood home. I would even say that my life and my style owe almost everything to its location and architecture".
Les Rhumbs Villa, childhood home of Christian Dior
When Madeleine Dior first laid eyes on this villa - which resembles more a sturdy little manor than a stylish residence - she decided to make it her own. With a similar strength of conviction to that displayed by her son Christian many years later with regard to the mansion at 30, Avenue Montaigne. Back in 1905, the future designer still an infant, Madeleine persuaded Maurice Dior to purchase the house with the neverending vistas. The property perched above Granville, a mere kilometre outside what was “a sleepy port town for nine months of the year and (in summer turned into) an elegant quarter of Paris”. His was quite a childhood in the isolated confines of the house. Christian would wile away the hours learning by heart the names of plants and flowers from Vilmorin-Andrieux seed catalogues; listening to the women sing hit of the day « L’hirondelle du faubourg » in the warmth of the laundry room; gazing up at the ceiling rose in his bedroom. Christian Dior always thought of Granville with “a nostalgia for stormy nights, foghorns, the death knell sounding a funeral and the Norman drizzle in the midst of which (his childhood) was spent”. He tended the flame of Granville for the rest of his days, recreating the spirit of the place in colours (pink and grey), scents (rose and lily-of-the-valley), sturdy, elegant shapes, and an atmosphere of sheltered peacefulness that befits a family home.
Christian Dior's love of flowers and gardens
« The garden that guarded my childhood » is how Christian Dior described the garden of the villa in which he was raised in Granville, Normandy. His mother, Madeleine, was a keen gardener. Christian inherited her love of flowers and was fascinated by the shapes, colours and poetry of this joyous, generous slice of nature. He spent much of his time engrossed in seed catalogues where he learnt by heart the Latin names of the flowers. He delved into landscaping in his teenage years, designing a pool and pergola for the garden of the family home. The young Dior saw the garden as a temple of beauty, calm and contemplation, and his prodigious insight remains to this day a manifesto for landscapers all over the world. He loved flowers most of all. When he became a designer, he wanted them everywhere. Dior dreamt of a world filled with flower-women and attributed floral names to his creations. He endowed with the grace of a rose every one of his dresses, whose meticulous structures and beautiful fabrics and embroidery gave an impression of fragility and infinite beauty. Calices, petals, pistils and stamens rendered in minute detail on evening gowns resembled the work of a brilliant botanist. Between 1947 and 1957 Dior named more than 50 models after roses.
Christian Dior Museum opens at the former family home in Granville
History had in store darker days for Les Rhumbs. The family were staying at Granville when the First World War broke out. They chose not to return to Paris, retreating instead behind the comforting walled safety of the villa and garden. Staunchly loyal to the Allied Forces, this safe haven became one of the first casualties of the Dior family's bankruptcy in the wake of the 1929 crash. Acquired by the town, its furnishings were dispersed. Its park became a public garden in 1938, and in 1997 the villa came to hold the Christian Dior museum.