On 12th Feb 1947, Christian Dior presented his first ever collection, instantly dubbed the ‘New Look’ he sparked great excitement and created an unprecedented revolution. Today, I saw the history of Dior showcased at Harrods and was guided by a very knowledgeable (rather handsome) male model! (For those of you thinking of visiting – I totally recommend the offer of a guide.)
This was an exceptional exhibition, and with all the factual information I was given I’m afraid I have to go into detail with this as I thoroughly enjoyed myself! So feel free to just look at the pictures instead.
The exhibition started with a dolls house replica of the Palace of Versaille. Dior originally wanted to be an architect and became besotted with the stunning structure of the Palace, its beauty, elegance and refinement. He believed every woman should feel like a princess. Many of the Dior ads have been filmed there (including J’adore) and many of his runway shows also resembled the location.
From here I was taken into a corridor displaying Dior’s first ever collections (with his sketches illuminated above) It is believed Dior adored flowers and by the age of just 8yrs (if I’m not mistaken), he could name every flower there was! His future collections and inspiration come from flowers and he sketched many of his first collection whilst visiting the countryside. As time progressed he refined the Dior ‘codes’ used to create his collections which are still used today.
His first ever piece was the ‘Bar’ (seen in the pic with white jacket & black skirt). Not only was this jacket unusual in its day due to the nipped in waist and rounded shoulders, but the skirt was equally shocking due to the extravagant pleats, as in those days people couldn’t afford material so to pleat it & use more luxurious material than necessary was extraordinary!
Dior always had a love for England with huge admiration for its treasures, tweed and Harrods. The exhibition illustrated news boards explaining Dior’s first runway in the UK watched by the Queen and details how he dedicated the funds of his first collection to the British Red Cross. He also appeared on the cover of the magazine Jours De France entitled ‘Dior Cez Margaret‘, another proof of his impact on the world as the Queen should always be named first!
Dior was the first to launch not just a collection but also a perfume simultaneously (compared to now when a designer is usually established before a fragrance is released). With his love of all things floral he created his first ever perfume ‘Miss Dior’ 1974, inspired by a moment when his sister entered a room looking like a princess. A bottle was later designed exclusively for the Princess of Monaco featuring the Grimaldi cost of arms. In the exhibition, there was even a phone booth you could walk into that was filled with the Miss Dior fragrance with a video playing the advert with Natalie Portman!
The room opposite showcased the other popular fragrance J’adore. Bottles of which filled the floor with the actual gown worn by the South African actress Charlize Theron as centrepiece. The gown and neck of the bottle were inspired by the African tribal coils used to elongate their necks.
Dior was very superstitious. One day, when walking to work as an apprentice he found a golden star that had dropped off a carriage, which he put it in his pocket for good luck. That day he declared he would start his own design house and the rest was history! He reportedly kept the golden star in his pocket every day till he died! He also believed the number 8 was his lucky number. This is everywhere in his collections if you look: The charm on his bags are held together with a link the shape of an 8, the silhouette of his clothes and the Darling/J’adore fragrance bottles are the shape of 8, the print on his Lady Dior bag has 8 sides…etc.
The exhibition also showcased miniature replicas of Dior dresses spanning the ages designed by not only Dior himself, but by other creative directors who took the helm after his death; Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and Raf Simons. There were even the original dresses worn by Princess Dianna (the blue dress), Elizabeth Taylor (belted dress with rose) Audrey Hepburn (white with silver) and the showstopper dress by Raf Simons (2012), a modern spin of an original Christian Dior couture (bottom pic).
All in all, a fantastic exhibition which is open to the public till 14th April and is well worth the visit. Plus you get to walk round Harrods and check out the other designers too!