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Tonie Ong

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Sometimes, a designer’s creation can redefine fashion as we know it. By introducing a new silhouette, a new fabric, or simply a new way of dressing up, the designer dictates what will be the defining look of that era. Such designers are quite rare, and throughout history, only a handful of them can really claim such responsibility. Beyond fashion, they revolutionized how people dressed, proving how the industry touches upon all the facets of society, not just the rich and famous. Their influence knows no bounds and is stamped on the history of fashion. In the 20th century, one of the most prominent of such designers as Christian Dior.

Christian Dior and his fashion house, Dior, are often credited with ushering the world into the Golden Age of haute couture. His clothes defined the 1950’s, seen by many as the most elegant period in modern history. While he was often criticized for his fashions, he stood his ground and continued to make clothes on the basis of his feminine aesthetic. A lot of women fell in love with his designs and the house immediately became a favorite among the upper class. Soon, the influence trickled down to the middle class, and the Dior look was worn by all women, some even to this day.

Every significant step towards fashion stardom

Natalie Portman Miss Dior Cherie
Natalie Portman Miss Dior

Christian Dior was born on the 21st of January, 1905 in Normandy, France. He grew up close to his mother and appreciated what she and her friends wore, which basically started his love for fashion. He also loved gardening and had a special affinity for flowers—which would inspire his famous silhouette. Around the 1920’s, he left school and went to Paris, forming friendships with artists such as Pablo Picasso and opened a gallery named Dior Frères, which closed down in the 1930’s due to the Great Depression. He got his first fashion job under Robert Piguet, who allowed him to design parts of his collections.

After the Second World War, he worked under Lucien Lelong where he met Pierre Balmain, another couturier. Both designers soon left the house and founded their own fashion houses. With the help of entrepreneur Marc Boussac, Dior opened his fashion house in late 1946, however, it’s widely accepted that the founding year is 1947 because that when he showed his first collection. On February 12, 1947, Dior showed his first collection, entitled “Corolle”. It was received with both praise and criticism, resulting in a slew of scandals for the house. A lot of people criticized Dior’s frivolous use of fabrics, which at that time had to be rationed because of the war. By the 1950’s, the couture house had become the most famous and influential brands in the entire world. Unfortunately, in 1957, exactly ten years after his debut, Christian Dior died of a heart attack.

The ‘New Look’ and its influence on fashion

Dior bag spotted before Fendi fashion show during Milan Fashion Week.
Dior bag spotted before Fendi fashion show during Milan Fashion Week. Image credit: andersphoto

The term “New Look” is forever associated with the house of Dior. It refers to their signature silhouette of wide bosoms, nipped waist, and full hips. The term was actually coined by former Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor Carmel Snow. The silhouette defined the 1950’s and continues to be a staple shape in fashion today. It represents a look of prominent elegance with demure sensuality, all the while being extremely feminine. From the couture dresses of the world’s elite to the prom dresses of middle-class high school students, the ‘New Look’ was worn by almost every woman in the world. Today, the shape remains to be one of the most used silhouettes in fashion. From the house of Dior to the other fashion luxury labels, everyone has incorporated the ‘New Look’ into their designs, proving its timeless power.

Creative Directors

Because of their high reputation, the house Dior has elevated the prestige of its many creative directors that succeeded the founder. The first was Yves Saint Laurent, who eventually became a revolution in fashion himself during the 1970’s. After Saint Laurent was Marc Bohan, who continued the sophisticated and haute couture-approach of the brand. In the 1980’s to the 90’s, Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre put his own baroque touch to the Dior style, making it one of the most popular brands during both decades.

Arguably the most notorious creative director in this roster is John Galliano, who went all out when it came to his shows. His designs were so elaborate, borderline costumes, but were all artistic and sophisticated. He held shows in Versailles, Shanghai, China, on a yacht in New York, and much more. He was fired from the house in 2011 after a scandal. Belgian minimalist Raf Simons took over after Galliano was fired. Far from what his predecessor did, Simons took a more intellectual approach with Dior, often giving a more streetwise element to the elaborate designs of the house’s archives. In 2016, Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first female creative director of the brand. Her styles are youthful and feminine, rooted in a sense of feminism which is at the forefront of today’s social issues.

Dior and Roses

Dior and Roses

Christian Dior loved roses and always had them in his garden. When he became the famous couturier, he often alluded that his women looked like roses, wafting about Paris like the petals in his garden. It’s not a surprise that rose is very much the main characteristic for the House of Dior. From perfume scents to accessories, the rose flower is heavily incorporated in the houses’ most memorable and finest signatures. The brand’s jewelry is made up of rose gold metals, a unique look from other fashion houses. And of course, rose pendants are popular among his fine selection as well.

Love for architecture expressed through jewelry

Dior Jewelry

Before he became one of the most famous grand couturiers in the history of fashion, Dior wanted to become an architect. He was always fascinated by voluminous shapes, geometric lines, and strong structures that create the most awe-inspiring silhouettes. He incorporated such principles in his haute couture, and he defined himself as a couturier architect. One can see in his iconic shapes and silhouettes that he really did have an eye for architecture, and it was one the characteristics of his designs that had women clamoring for more. But, beyond his usual haute couture, the house also incorporated the founder’s love for architecture in their jewelry line, aptly called “Archi Dior.”

Maintaining the elegance and delicacy of the Dior aesthetic, this array of rings, bracelets, and necklaces are all architectural in shape and form. With the finest metals and expertly-cut diamonds and other stones, these pieces harken back to the shapely forms of the founder’s first haute couture creations, as well as the tailoring enthused by his successors through the years. The exemplify such rich designs, tricking the eye into thinking it’s one shape only to be a totally different one. They’re also perfect to pair the house’s equally ostentatious haute couture pieces.

Dior À Versailles

Dior À Versailles

Elaborate and exuberant are two words often used to describe Dior. When it debuted right after the Second World War, as the world was rationing fabric at the time, the haute couture house astonished the everyone by offering couture creations that needed multiple yards of fabric. As a result of such an identity, Dior is often compared to the ostentatious royals of historic France, such as Marie Antoinette, who famously lived at Versailles. Like Dior, the palace of Versaille stand as France’s legacy as one of the world’s most exuberant countries, even to this day. The brand then incorporated such reputation by releasing a jewelry line inspired the famous palace, called Dior À Versailles.

True to its name, the collection features some of the most intricate and elaborate pieces from any jewelry line in the world. Using such materials like diamonds, sapphires, topaz, rubies, and many more, Dior À Versailles captures the very essence of one of the most famous sites in all of France (maybe even the world). The collection is unapologetically majestic, with each piece harkening back to the glimmering halls of the historic palaces. If you think Dior’s fashions were already quite enough, wait until you see this jewelry line!

The world of Dior beauty

In his desire to make women beautiful and happy, Dior couldn’t just ignore the other aspects the complement his glamorous dresses and jewelry. This led to the creation of a division that specifically dealt with beauty products, which include fragrances, cosmetics and skincare. Each product is made meticulously, true to the spirit of Dior, and mostly take inspiration after the flowers that inspired the designer countless times. The beauty products of the luxury line depend on the expertise of two established professionals in their field: François Demachy for fragrances, and Peter Philips for Dior cosmetics. The items are created and developed in France’s Saint Jean de Braye.

Perfumes

More than just the fashion articles, the house of Dior is also known for their fragrances, which was launched in 1948. Christian Dior’s House of Parfums is made to encapsulate a much beloved area for the designer: the Grasse. It is such a picturesque area, with blooms abound and scents that catch on, providing much inspiration to Dior and his creations. Such is the love for the area that today, the house still honors the late master designer’s preferences by having working relationships with those in the area who reserve a portion of its harvests of grandiflorum jasmine and may rose especially for Dior.

Christian Dior Perfume
Christian Dior Perfume – Kolomiec

More than their fashions, the house of Dior is also known for their fragrances, which was launched in 1948. One of the first ones they released was Miss Dior, named after the founder’s sister Catherine. The following year, in 1949, they released Diorama. One of the most iconic fragrances of the house is J’Adore Dior, mostly because of its gold bottle and their advertising. By the latter half of the 10th century to today, the house of Dior has gotten prominent celebrities to front their perfume ad campaigns. For J’Adore Dior, it’s Charlize Theron. On the other hand, Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman became the face of Miss Dior during the early 2010’s. For one of their more recent fragrances, Midnight Poison, Dior enlisted actress Eva Green to front their print and TV ad campaigns, the latter directed by Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai.

Dior J'adore in Dubai International Airport
Dior J’adore in Dubai International Airport. Credit: Sorbis

Cosmetics

In line with Dior’s penchant for creating products that make women feel beautiful, his eponymous brand also carries cosmetics, some of which are worth it splurges since their line comes on the higher end of the spectrum, price-wise. It is among the best luxury brands offering cosmetics, if the sales among them are to be considered (Chanel is the only luxury brand that consistently outsells Dior when it comes to beauty products), and that can be owed to the colorful selection that Dior offers, from the vibrant and colorful to the more subtle and natural.

Some of the notable products that are also bestsellers include the Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara that offers great volume and curling power, the Diorskin Forever Foundation that works overtime in giving the skin a flawless and luminous finish, as well as the highly pigmented Rouge Dior that leaves a luxurious feeling on the lips.

Besides its main line of cosmetics, Dior has also released Backstage, which is intended to appeal to younger lovers of the brand. Cooler and trendier, Backstage has models like Bella Hadid, Manuela Sanchez, Chu Wong and Ruth Bell lending their faces for endorsement of the newly-minted products. Dior has also realized the potential in the wide audience that influencers get, so they are also relying on them to spread the word about the more accessible luxury cosmetics line. While Dior keeps most of its clothing offline, Dior cosmetics and Dior Backstage are available for purchase right at the company website.

Skincare

It may be the lesser known of Dior’s beauty products, but the Dior line of skincare is worth checking out. For those who like to keep it natural and chemical-free as much as possible, you’d be delighted to know that Dior sources the products that promise radiating skin from the Dior Gardens. There are three sites: the plains of Burkina Faso, the Loire Valley, and the Ranomafana Garden in Madagascar. With its skincare and fragrances, Christian Dior keeps together two of the most beautiful creatures on earth: women and flowers.

How it works is that Dior selects certain blooms with qualities that can be helpful to keeping a healthy skin and then planting them onto the rich soil of the gardens, where they are harvested after enough time so that the scientists that work for Dior—the Master-Formulators—can study them. It is then that the products are formulated, using the flowers’ active ingredients to combat certain skin problems and maintain the glow that can only radiate from a problem-free skin.

Some of the brand’s bestsellers you ought to try include the Capture Totale serum that is made to make the skin plump again, sourced from the boosted longozas of the Madagascar garden; the Dior Prestige cream that promises to keep the skin healthy in spite of the cold, piercing weather that can be harsh to the skin, formulated with the rose de granville from the Loire Valley; and the Capture Totale Multi-Perfection creme that revitalizes the skin by combatting sagginess and other signs of aging, with ingredients taken from the Ranomafana garden in Madagascar.

The house of Dior is one of the most successful labels in the world, Its contributions to fashion are unequalled, and their heritage continues to be a source of inspiration for many designers emerging in the industry today. It’s become a giant in the retail business and powerhouse in the luxury goods field. When one thinks of fashion, the name Dior will pop up, for sure.

Dior Boutique in Royal Village (near to Madeleine in 8th district). Paris, France.
Dior Boutique in Royal Village (near to Madeleine in 8th district). Paris, France. Credit: Kiev.Victor

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