We are all familiar with the multi-million fashion business that stands today as Christian Dior. The infamous CD logo inevitably leaps to mind for many of us, I’m sure. Christian Dior is a revolutionary name in the fashion industry; a name which is exceptionally deserving and worthy of its icon status. In many ways, Christian Dior changed the way fashion is not only viewed, but also produced, having been the very first couturier to arrange licensed production of his designs.
We now know the fashion brand for the wearable designs that Maria Grazia Chiuri has brought to the table as its first female creative director. Her reinvention of Marc Bohan’s Dior Oblique pattern is unmissable. Whether it’s on the B23 high-top sneakers you cannot walk the streets and not spot, or on the book tote bag everyone is taking trendy holiday instagram pictures with, one thing is for sure – it is completely and undeniably popular.
Even through this brief discussion of the Dior Oblique pattern we can see just how influential and important every creative director’s contribution is to the brand. Thus, let’s embark on a journey through time and look at the creative director’s to grace the Christian Dior label.
Christian Dior (1946-1957)
Christian Dior started his well renowned fashion house in 1946 after having gained experience in the world of fashion alongside iconic names such as Robert Piguet, Lucian Long and Pierre Balmain. His first show as a fashion house founder took place a year later in 1947, and the ninety looks featured took the fashion world by storm. Dior’s creations were quickly labelled as the ‘new look’, readily sought out after the fabric restrictions of the war. His work rose to popularity when famous faces like Rita Hayworth, Margot Fonteyn and the Royal Family were spotted in the designs. His beautiful curvy silhouettes are some of the most noteworthy of his designs and remain a Dior staple in the creations of many of the creative directors to follow (Raf Simons to give an example).
Yves Saint Laurent (1957-1960)
Yves Saint Laurent found his first job in the fashion industry working alongside Christian Dior as his assistant. After Dior’s sad passing in 1957, the French fashion scene found itself in disarray; CEO Marcel Boussac wished to shut down the brand as a whole but was unable to due to the industry authorities’ denial. This meant that Yves Saint Laurent found himself creative director of Dior. He designed six collections as creative director: the first being a triumph in a time where the death of Monsieur Dior was still fresh in the public’s hearts. His third collection and thereafter made him, unfortunately, lose some momentum. He drew inspiration from Bohemian culture and attempted to move in a direction influenced by modernity and a ‘new age’. He attempted to introduce dark colours and fabrics like leather, textiles we otherwise now recognise as the signature YSL style. The French public did not view his distancing from bourgeoisie elegance in a positive light and thus, his latter collections received very bad reviews. Saint Laurent was called to go to the military after two years and six collections at Dior. Two years after that, the iconic Saint Laurent label was founded. Looking back at his work for Dior now we can appreciate his attempts to bring freshness to the industry as a couture genius perhaps just too ahead of his time.
Marc Bohan (1960-1989)
Marc Bohan succeeded Saint Laurent as creative director at Dior. Arguably, Bohan had the greatest impact on Dior as a brand and most importantly as a business. He not only created the beloved Dior Oblique pattern that we previously discussed, but he also launched the brands very first ready-to-wear collection in 1970. Bohan also created a menswear line called Dior Monsieur, which stands today as Dior Homme. As for Bohan’s style, we can describe it as more conservative and simple, especially moving away from Saint Laurent’s more daring designs, but nonetheless breathtaking in their beauty.
Gianfranco Ferre (1989-1997)
Gianfranco Ferre took the role of creative director at Dior in 1989 once Bohan decided to move back to London. Having studied in the Architecture Department at The Polytechnic University of Milan, Ferre’s designs whilst at Dior certainly brought a more architectural look to the table. His collections showcased abstract silhouettes, displaying the beauty of movement in their voluminous structures and exaggerated lines and colour: the reason Ferre was nicknamed the ‘fashion architect’. Ferre’s exit from Dior came sadly as he decided to focus on his own brand.
John Galliano (1997-2011)
The first ever Englishman to join the legacy of Dior, and perhaps our own personal favourite Dior era, John Galliano became creative director in 1997 upon Anna Wintour’s recommendation. His nationality proved to be a surprising issue amongst the public who were not happy at the fact that Galliano was English. Nonetheless, raising above all prejudice, Galliano, likened to Christian Dior by CEO Arnault, made a legendary impact on the brand. The pencil moustache, naked suit, genius rendered a complete brand revamp. His creative input gave the brand a radical shift from old- school, quaint elegance to a completely new lane for artistry with garments that blurred the lines between: past and present, fashion and sculpture, theatre and real life.
Raf Simons (2012-2015)
Every fashion junkie has undoubtedly watched the beautiful documentary Dior & I, which saw Raf Simons’ first steps as creative director and his attempts at modernising the processes of haute couture, alongside working on, and significantly succeeding in, his very first show. His work brought back the sophisticated and elegant look of the past, but with a new, fresh edge. His three year reign at Dior brought an increase in sales of 60%, however, unfortunately, he decided not to renew his contract and left to focus on his own brand.
Recommendation: Raf Simons By Terry Jones Coffee Table Book
Maria Grazia Chiuri (2016-today)
As mentioned previously, Grazia Chiuri is the first ever woman to creatively direct and lead the Dior label by herself. She has unfortunately received some backlash, with critics commenting on her lack of creativity, suggesting that Dior had appointed the wrong designer for the role. The truth is, her designs prove wearability in a way not seen before by Dior. Some of her designs like the ‘we should all be feminists’ t-shirts are easily everyday attire. And maybe that’s what makes her collections special. Not only can her designs empower women in their everyday lives, but from a sales standpoint, her collections certainly do prove very successful.
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