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Christian Dior - Knew What Women Wanted before Anyone Else Did.
The one and only, Artist, Innovator, and Oddball (for more info on CD see recent blogpost about John Galliano's amazing collaboration with vintage Christian Dior fall collection dresses in a modern way)
If you think all designers have always gone around with sketchpad in hand thinking beautiful thoughts of sequins and shimmers, think again.
Christian Dior, born in Normandy, France in 1905, certainly did not go about with a sketchpad or went to bed thinking happy thoughts of tutus and lace. In fact, he majored in political science and spent some years in the military. It wasn't until he was 30 when he got his foot into the fashion door, but not as a designer.
You see, all Dior wanted was to focus on art. In 1928, his father gave him capital to open an art gallery, on the express condition that it wouldn't be associated to the family name in any way. The gallery thrived and became the haunting ground of the creative and the avant garde. But in 1931, disaster struck. Dior's older brother and mother died, and not long after, the family's fertilizer manufacturing business collapsed. Poor, inexperienced, and still green around the gills, Dior made ends meet by selling sketches to fashion houses. Couturier Robert Piquet eventually hired him as an assistant but this job was short-lived because not long after, World War II broke out.
Dior served as an officer in the French army and after France surrendered, worked for another couturier, Lucien Lelong. He dressed the wives of French collaborators and Nazi officers. By then, France was in ruins. Food, coal, and clothes were in short supply but Dior had a vision. He believed that the public was ready for a new style and he was right. Textile baron a.k.a the King of Cotton Marcel Boussac backed him up and launched the House of Dior. The rest, to use a very worn cliche, was history.
Dior's New Look re-introduced the joy into dressing. Cinched waist, rounded shoulders, a full skirt, and opulent fabrics - these details were in stark contrast to the severe living conditions in post-war France. Not surprisingly, it sold quicker than hotcakes. By the time the war ended, Dior had cemented his reputation as a demi-god of the fashion industry. He also re-established Paris as the capital of the fashion world.
Dior's impact on the fashion world cannot be over-emphasized. He wasn't just a designer; he was a legend. He was also painfully shy. Though the pear-shaped, short, and shiny-pated fashion powerhouse was courted by Parisian society, he remained so very shy he found it difficult to bow to his audience after each show. He wasn't without his eccentricities, too. He refused to see any man who didn't wear a tie and consulted his clairvoyant before making a major decision. And if, in life, he was a character; so was he in death. He died of a heart attack, after he choked on a fish bone.
Artist, soldier, oddball, designer, businessman - Dior was all these and more. Above all, he was a visionary who changed society by helping people dress better - one collection at a time.