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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: Celebrating Christian Dior

Christian Dior
Christian Dior (photo credit:

On January 21st, 1905, Christian Dior was born on the Normandy coast of France. Moving to Paris at the age of five, he grew into a visionary designer whose name would become synonymous with elegance, innovation, and a transformative style that reshaped women's fashion post-World War II. His impact on the fashion industry is profound, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to influence consumer trends and preferences.

The Dior family in Granville, Normandy
The Dior family in Granville, Normandy (photo credit:

The Birth of a Fashion Legend Christian Dior, born into a wealthy family in Granville, Normandy, was initially steered towards a diplomatic career by his parents, Maurice and Madeleine Dior. However, his passion for art was undeniable. He began selling fashion sketches outside his home to earn money and, in 1928, with a loan from his parents, opened a small art gallery. Though his parents forbade using the family name, the gallery flourished, featuring works by icons like Pablo Picasso. Dior's gallery became a hub for avant-garde European artists, including Max Ernst and Salvador Dali, whose 'The Persistence of Memory' debuted there. However, the Great Depression's toll led to the gallery's closure, steering Dior towards his destined path in fashion.

Early Career and World War II Influence By 1937, Dior's fashion career had begun in earnest at the house of Robert Piquet, alongside Pierre Balmain and later succeeded by Marc Bohan. His military service during the war introduced militaristic elements into his designs, a subtle but telling influence. After leaving the army in 1942, Dior joined Lucien Lelong's fashion house, contributing to the preservation of French fashion during the occupation, often designing for the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators, an irony not lost in the annals of fashion history.

Dior's first collection dubbed "The New Look" in 1947
Dior's first collection dubbed "The New Look" in 1947 (photo credit:

The New Look: A Fashion Revolution In 1946, Marcel Boussac, a wealthy entrepreneur, offered Dior a chance to design for Philippe et Gaston, but Dior had grander visions. With Boussac's backing, he established the House of Dior and, in 1947, unveiled his first collection, “Corolle” and “Huit.” This collection's cinched waists, voluminous skirts, and emphasis on femininity contrasted sharply with the wartime fabric conservation. Dior presented this groundbreaking collection at 30 Avenue Montaigne, quickly earning the moniker "New Look" from Carmel Snow of Harper’s Bazaar. This line didn't just refresh fashion aesthetics; it symbolized post-war renewal and helped reestablish Paris as the heart of the fashion world.

Christian Dior launches fragrance empire
Christian Dior launches fragrance empire (photo credit:

Expansion and Legacy Dior's vision extended beyond haute couture to perfumes, makeup, and menswear. His famous perfume, 'Miss Dior,' created in 1947, was a tribute to his sister Catherine, a French Resistance member and Ravensbruck concentration camp survivor. By 1949, with a boutique in New York City, Dior's designs constituted 75% of Paris's fashion exports. The 1950s saw an aggressive expansion into luxury goods, a move initially criticized but ultimately trendsetting.

The sudden death of Christian Dior in 1957 sent shockwaves through the fashion world. Yves Saint Laurent, then just 21, took over, continuing Dior's legacy. Dior had only recently met with Saint Laurent's mother, telling her of his choice of Saint Laurent as his successor, a testament to his faith in nurturing new talent.

The Architect of Fashion Dreams Dior's influence extended far beyond his designs. He revolutionized the way fashion was perceived and consumed, making Paris the epicenter of haute couture. His legacy is a testament to the power of vision and innovation in fashion. As John Galliano, another illustrious designer of the House of Dior, reflected, "Dior transformed women with his New Look, and he transformed fashion. His impact is eternal."

Christian Dior headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Christian Dior headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris (photo credit:

Did You Know?

Artistic Beginnings: Before fashion, Dior ran an art gallery and was deeply involved in the art world, showcasing works by artists like Pablo Picasso.

The Diorama Dress: One of Dior's most iconic designs, the Diorama dress, featured more than 60 yards of fabric and epitomized the lavishness of his style.

Innovative Marketing: Dior's innovative use of the fashion show as a marketing tool was groundbreaking, transforming these events into spectacular, highly anticipated showcases, revolutionizing how fashion was presented and sold.

The Dior Garden: Christian Dior had a passion for gardening, which often influenced his designs. Many of his collections featured floral motifs, a nod to his love for gardens.

A Global Brand: By the early 1950s, Dior’s fashions accounted for nearly 75% of France’s fashion exports, making him a significant contributor to the French economy.

Celebrity Appeal: Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Grace Kelly were among the many celebrities who adored Dior’s designs.

Philanthropy: Dior was known for his philanthropic efforts, often using his brand and influence to support various causes and charities.

Fashion Education: Dior was passionate about education in fashion, believing in nurturing new talent, a legacy that the House of Dior continues today through various initiatives.

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