Christian Dior was a French fashion designer known for his couture that revived the industry during the post-war era. Throughout his career, his creations rose to the forefront of fashion as they reintroduced luxury in women’s clothing. A talented designer and a shrewd businessman, he established a fashion house that continues to be very successful at present. Behind the legendary name, here are the following facts:
1. Despite his family’s wealth, Dior had humble beginnings as designer.
- He was born the second of five children to a wealthy family. His father owned a highly successful fertilizer business.
- After the Great Depression and the collapse of his father’s business, Dior supported himself by selling fashion illustrations worth 10 cents each.
2. He always had a passion for art and design.
- Dior initially wanted to be an architect, but followed his father’s wish for him to be a diplomat. He studied political science at École des Sciences Politiques.
- After graduation, he opened a gallery with money his father lent him. It featured works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Max Jacob, and Jean Cocteau.
3. Dior continued working as a couturier during World War II.
- During the German occupation of France, he worked under Lucien Lelong to dress the wives of French and Nazi collaborators. This preserved the fashion industry in Paris during difficult times.
- His younger sister Catherine was a member of the French Resistance sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. She was released and Christian paid homage to her by naming his debut fragrance Miss Dior.
4. His creations were a rebuttal to the war’s rationing on materials.
- Dior’s debut collection consisted of 90 different looks and came in two lines named “Corolle” and “Huit.” The fashion press christened his designs as the “New Look.”
- The dresses featured full bell-shaped skirts, bare rounded shoulders, and cinched waists. The average piece consumed 20 yards of fabric.
5. Dior’s designs were challenged by many women.
- Feminists argued the New Look was oppressive, requiring restrictive garments such as the corset, crinoline, and padding to create the proper silhouette.
- Perhaps Dior’s only true rival was Coco Chanel whose clothes were designed to be comfortable, elegant, and easy to wear. She described male couturiers as “Fifties Horrors” due to the way they “tortured” women’s bodies.
6. He died after ten short years of work in the fashion industry.
- Dior had a fatal heart attack while on vacation in Italy. Some speculated it was triggered by choking on a fish bone, while an acquaintance wrote it may have been due to intense sexual exertion.
- He had chosen his assistant Yves Saint Laurent to succeed him. Dior expressed his wish to Saint Laurent’s mother, leaving her confused because he was only 52 at the time. Dior died shortly after and Saint Laurent became artistic director at 21.
Despite his brief stint in the business, Christian Dior has helped in keeping Paris as one of the fashion capitals in the world. His creations, though opulent in that era, were post-war cultural symbols that represented “youth, hope, and the future” for many.