the 70 year legacy of one of fashion's most influential brands

09/feb/2017 04:05:09 Morilee Contatta l'autore

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To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the house of Christian Dior, More4 have made a fascinating two-part observational documentary that takes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the global, billion-dollar brand.

From the early days of Christian Dior and ‘the new look’ right through to the recent appointment of Maria Grazia Chiuri, it provides a talking point for discussions about fashion and female identity and how it has changed.

Here we look back at the French couture house’s lasting legacy and the huge impact the brand has had on the way women graduation dresses over the past 70 years.

Dior founded his eponymous couture label in 1947 on Avenue Montaigne, in the heart of Paris. Aged 42 he was a creative genius, a true visionary and above all, a shrewd business man, who changed the face of fashion.

Dior was the first designer to see the economic relevance of branching out into perfume and luxury goods, establishing the blue print for all modern day couture houses. The astute French man recognised very early on that while not all women could afford his clothes, a much wider audience could buy his perfume and cosmetics.

Fast forward to today and every fashion house knows that the real money comes from accessory and cosmetics sales.

Dior came onto the fashion scene in a blaze of controversy, pushing the boundaries right from the outset. In 1947, a post-war Europe was still in the grips of gloom, rationing and austerity. Women dressed in modest clothing to reflect the mood of the time.

Dior's 'new look' challenged this and shocked women the world over. His debut collection featured unique silhouettes with full voluminous skirts, tiny waists and exaggerated bust lines.

Carmel Snow, Editor-In-Chief of Harper's Bazaar exclaimed" "It's quite a revolution dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!".

News reached the US and the phrase was coined by all. The 'new look' came to represent the epitome of sophistication and elegance of its day.

With it, Dior had wanted to give women back their taste for light heartedness and remind them of the art of seduction. By designing, in his own words, "flower women with soft shoulders, blossoming bosoms, waists as slender as creepers and skirts as wide as corollas" he loved women and just wanted to make women happy. And with his 'new look' that's exactly what he did.

Dior's now infamous Bar Jacket was to become the icon of his new look, constructed by the would-be architects own hands. Decades after his tragic death, it remains a key shape that continues to run throughout Dior catwalk collections.

In 1954, Dior was invited to host a show at Blenheim Palace. A stylish Princess Margaret ordered a number of his gowns, helping high society to fall in love with Dior. The princess was famously photographed in one her Dior gowns in 1955 by Cecil Beaton. English society went mad for Dior, which delighted Christian, who loved England. Princess Margaret once stated that, "my favourite dress of all…was my first Dior dress, white strapless tulle and a vast satin bow at the back."

On a visit to London, aged just 21, he wrote: "When an English woman is pretty, she is prettier than a woman of any nationality. I adore the English, graduation gowns not only in the tweeds which suit them so well, but also in those flowing dresses, in subtle colours, which they have worn inimitably since the days of Gainsborough."

Christian had an innate understanding of what women wanted, and while this has evolved over time and women's identities have changed, this underlying desire has lived on through the long list of designers that succeeded Dior. His 'new look' has become a perpetual evolution that has become the underpinning of the brand.

Dior died of a heart attack at the age of 52 and his 21-year-old assistant Yves Saint Laurent stepped into his master's shoes. This marked the beginning of what Suzy Menkes, International Vogue Editor, refers to in the documentary as 'a more feisty, more 60s era.'

Aged just 21, a quiet, timid and reluctant Yves was charged with safeguarding the future of the world's most successful fashion house. His first collection was rapturously received and he successfully moved the house along with the times.

Sadly, a short two years later, Saint Laurent was called up for military service and he was replaced.

 

Continuing to modernise the house, Marc Bohan took over in 1960 introducing a fluidity that didn't exist before. Marc was hugely successful in bringing high profile clients to the brand, Grace Kelly being one of them.

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