“I have designed flower women.”

C. Dior

Christian Dior was an influential French fashion designer, the founder of one of the world’s top fashion house, also called Christian Dior.

Christian Dior was born in a seaside town on the coast of France, called Granville. His family hoped he would become a diplomat, but Dior only wished to be involved in the fashion world and sketching as well.

To raise money, he sold his fashion works outside for about 10 cents per sketch. In 1928 after leaving school he opened a small art gallery, receiving money from his father. After a family financial disaster Dior was forced to close the gallery.

From the 30’s to the 40’s Christian Dior worked with Robert Piguet until being called up for military service. In 1942, having left the Army, Dior joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong, where he and Pierre Balmain were the primary designers. During World War II, Christian Dior created dresses for Nazi officers’ and French collaborators’ wives.

On 8th of October 1946 Dior with the help of Marcel Boussac, the cotton-fabric magnate, founded his own fashion house.

The actual name of his first collection, presented in early 1947, was Corolle (circlet of flower petals in English), but it was coined New Look. It was called so because Dior wanted to give women something fresh new after the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles.

His look employed mostly percale fabrics, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist, giving his models a very curvaceous form. Initially, women were against such a revolution, as Dior’s designs covered up their legs, which they used to show because of the fabric limitations during the war.

Thus Dior’s New Look revolutionized women’s dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after World War II.

In 1947 Christian Dior launched its first perfume Miss Dior, named after Catherine Dior (Christian Dior’s sister). In 1949, the “Diorama” perfume was released and by 1949, the New Look line alone made a profit FFr 12.7 million.

Expansion from France began by the end of 1949 with the opening of a Christian Dior boutique in New York City. To see the scale of Christian Dior fashion house’s business its’ fashions made up 75% of Paris’s fashion exports and 5% of France’s total export revenue.

In 1950 Christian Dior fashion house General Manager Jacques Rouët devised a license that afforded to place “Christian Dior” brand name on a variety of luxury goods: neckties, hosiery, furs, hats, gloves, handbags, jewelry, lingerie, and scarves.

Christian Dior exclusively designed Marlene Dietrich’s dresses in the Alfred Hitchcock film Stage Fright in 1950.

By the mid-1950s, the House of Dior operated a well-respected fashion empire. Between the years of 1954 and 1957 monsieur Christian launched more highly successful fashion lines. Firmly established locations in Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and Italy had been operated since 1953. In honour of Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Marlborough, a Dior fashion show was held at the Blenheim Palace in 1954.

The first Dior’s shoe line was launched in 1953 with the aid of Roger Vivier. The first Dior boutique was established in 1954 at 9 Counduit Street. And in 1955 the first Dior lipstick was released.

In 1957 soon afterwards his appearance on the cover of Time, Christian Dior died from a third heart attack. To remain label in the ranks Rouët promoted the 21 year-old Yves Saint Laurent as Artistic Director that very same year. In the debut collection 1958 Laurent initially proved to have been the most appropriate choice. But after the completion of six Dior collections Laurent left.

In late 1960 his place occupied Marc Bohan. Bohan’s designs were very well esteemed by prominent social figures. Actress Elizabeth Taylor ordered 12 Dior dresses from Bohan’s Spring-Summer 1961 collection featuring the “Slim Look”. Bohan’s assistant Philippe Guibourgé launches the first French ready-to-wear collection “Miss Dior” in 1967.

In 1970 Bohan launched the first Christian Dior Homme clothing line. The first Dior watch “Black Moon” was released in 1975 in collaboration with licensee Benedom. Dior haute-couture graces the bodies of Princess Grace of Monaco, Princess Alexandria of Yugoslavia, and Lady Pamela Hicks (Lord Mountbatten of Burma’s younger daughter) for the wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.

In 1978, the Boussac Group filed for bankruptcy and so its assets (including those of Christian Dior) were purchased by the Willot Group.

After the Willot Group plummeted into bankruptcy in 1981, Bernard Arnault and his investment group stepped up and purchased it for “one symbolic franc” in December 1984. Arnault became Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Managing Director in 1985 as well. Upon leadership, Arnault focused only on the Bon Marché department store and Christian Dior Couture.

In 1988, Arnault’s Christian Dior S.A. took a 32% equity stake into the share capital of Moët-Hennessy • Louis Vuitton through its subsidiary Jacques Rober to create one of the most powerful leading luxury goods companies in the world.

Soon after, Arnault hired a new designer – John Galliano, stating that he “would have preferred a Frenchman”, but “talent has no nationality”. He even compares Galliano to Christian Dior by noting that “Galliano has a creative talent very close to that of Christian Dior. He has the same extraordinary mixture of romanticism, feminism, and modernity that symbolized Mr. Dior. In all of his creations-his suits, his dresses-one finds similarities to the Dior style.”

The Dior Spanish distributor was acquired in 1998 in an effort to enforce its new policy of strict Dior franchise and licensed retail network. Following this, Christian Dior Couture took over the direct marketing of ready-to-wear and women’s accessories in Japan after terminating its licensing agreement with Kanebo.

On October 5, 1999, Galliano released the Dior Spring-Summer 2000 ready-to-wear fashion show, debuting the new Saddle bag. In the same year, Dior’s long watch partner Bemedom joined the LVMH group.

In 2003 a Christian Dior boutique was opened in Moscow after the company took control of licensed operations of its Moscow agent. The Dior flagship boutique in the upscale Ginza shopping district of Tokyo was opened in 2004.

In 2005 the fashion house celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birthday of designer Christian Dior.

The 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Christian Dior fashion house was officially celebrated in 2007. Currently, Dior is featured in countless high-fashion magazines, more prominently Vogue, and advertises its popular Christian Dior Cosmetics and Perfumes via prominent fashionistas and models, having about 73,150 employees giving €17.75 billion of annual revenue.

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