Christian Dior’s show debuts in London

Photo: Adrien Dirand
Photo: Adrien Dirand
Photo: Adrien Dirand

“In 1947, Christian Dior changed the face of fashion with his New Look, which redefined the female silhouette and reinvigorated the post-war Parisian fashion industry,” states Oriole Cullen, the curator of the V&A’s latest triumph.

“Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” opened last week to much fanfare and by anyone’s estimation it is an impressive exhibition. Drawn from extensive Dior archives, the exhibition presents over 500 objects, 200 rare Haute Couture gowns together with accessories, vintage perfumes, fashion photography, illustrations and magazines. Spread across 11 sections, (designed by Nathalie Criniere) each demonstrate Mr Dior’s wide-ranging inspirations from historicism to horticulture.

The London exhibition builds on “Christian Dior: Couturier du Reve,” which was organised by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris last year. In particular, the exhibition highlights Mr Dior’s fascination with Britain. “There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking.” Mr Dior had many British clients including Nancy Mitford and Princess Margaret, whose 21st birthday gown is juxtaposed with her photographic portrait by Cecil Beaton.

The House of Dior is celebrated in the exquisite skill of the ateliers to the craftsmanship of successive designers. The daring designs of Yves Saint Laurent, the rational style of Marc Bohan, the flamboyance of Gianfranco Ferre, the drama of John Galliano, the minimalism of Raf Simons and the feminist vision of Maria Grazia Chiuri are all shown against backdrops ranging from Swarovski-encrusted ballrooms to beautiful gardens.

As Oriole Cullen says, “The influence of Christian Dior’s design was all-pervasive and helped to define an era. In their own individual ways, each of the House’s successive artistic directors have referenced and reinterpreted Dior’s own designs and continued the legacy of the founder, ensuring that the House of Christian Dior is at the forefront of fashion today.” Reason enough to visit.

Need to Know: “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” runs until July 14 at V&A Museum, London; Tickets from £20; www.am.ac.uk