“Officially I was supposed to be preparing my bachot for the Tannenberg course, but already, with my friends, I was falling under the influence of music, literature, painting, and all the manifestations of the new trend in the arts,” Christian Dior wrote in his memoirs. While the future Avenue Montaigne couturier envisaged himself attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to become an architect, his parents’ refusal pushed him to study political sciences instead. Fascinated by the young artists of his time whom he met “in the four corners of an inventive, cosmopolitan, intelligent Paris, erupting with genuine newness”, he developed his tastes and formed close friendships with the musician Henri Sauguet, the painter Christian Bérard and the poet Max Jacob. Close to the Groupe des Six, Dior dreamed of being a composer. However, in 1928, he decided to open an art gallery, with Jacques Bonjean, and then Pierre Colle. Together they would show work by Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Alberto Giacometti, Alexander Calder and Georges Braque, alongside that of Leonor Fini, Juan Miró and Pablo Picasso. “If only I could have been able to keep that stock of paintings which would now be of incalculable value, and which my family thought were worthless!” the gallerist-turned-couturier later regretted.
At the showing of the autumn-winter 1949 haute couture collection, which took place in the salons of Avenue Montaigne, some dresses designed by Christian Dior featured the names of his artist friends, such as Matisse and Braque. For ten years, his creativity was nourished by the work of his contemporaries who, from Marc Chagall to Bernard Buffet, would paint his portrait in turn. This permanent dialogue between art and fashion has continued long after the founding couturier’s death through the talents of his successors.
To wit, for the Madeleine dress from his autumn-winter 2005-2006 haute couture collection, John Galliano was inspired by the painting Madame Charles Max, by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. In July 2007, he celebrated the 60th anniversary of the House with a spectacular show on the theme of the Bal des Artistes, in the Orangerie at Versailles. The outfits seemed to have stepped out of paintings by the Impressionists, the Dutch and Spanish masters, as well as the painters of the Renaissance. This passion for art was shared by his successor, Raf Simons, who from his first haute couture show, for autumn-winter 2012-2013, referenced the abstract paintings of the artist Sterling Ruby and, the following season, looked to drawings made by Andy Warhol in the 1950s. More recently, for her spring-summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection, the Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, was inspired by the artist Niki de Saint Phalle and her friendship with Marc Bohan, himself Creative Director from 1961 to 1989. Today, the House remains closely linked to the world of art, as evidenced each year since 2013 by the Guggenheim International Gala in New York, made possible thanks to the involvement of Dior.