D IS FOR DIOR
BY: JULIANNA LUKACS
COVER ART: JULIANNA LUKACS
From the man behind the house to his eventual successors, the label of Christian Dior has never lacked brilliance. Fashion houses, like people, each have their own personality. Certain houses have instantly recognizable features: take Chanel’s pearls, tweed, and quilted leather or Louis Vuitton’s infamous monogram. For Dior, however, the defining characteristics of the brand are far more nuanced; Dior is not iconic just for its name and logo, but the quality craft and design of garments that set the precedent for luxury in fashion from Dior’s first runway show to today.
Paris, December 1946: Christian Dior founded the fashion house under his name. February 1947: Dior presented 90 looks in his first show. Dior’s intention in this line was to abolish the rigidity of current wartime clothing and instead bring extravagance, opulence, and excess to womenswear. The show is recognized under the name “The New Look” after the famous Harper's Bazaar’s editor-in-chief, Carmel Snow, exclaimed, “It’s such a new look!” in response to Christian’s revolutionary designs. This collection generated Dior 13.7 million USD by 1949.
“The New Look,” in essence, comes from Dior’s fresh silhouette and extravagant use of fabric. Dior invented the hourglass figure by constraining the waist and accentuating the breast with his garments. Additionally, Dior used extreme amounts of fabric in his skirts (at least 10 yards) creating a full, extravagant appearance that was highly controversial as it was a stark contrast to the fabric rationing of the time. One of Dior’s most iconic styles from this collection is the Bar Jacket, a defining symbol of the New Look. The tailoring of the jacket emphasizes the features of the female body through its tight waist and accentuated chest and hips. While the opponents of Dior’s extravagance hated the New Look, those who loved it made Dior a sensation. By the end of the 1940s, Dior accounted for 75% of Paris's fashion exports and 5% of France's total export revenue.
In 1957, Christian Dior passed away; and although he worked at the house for only 10 years, Dior was renowned as a fashion legend who built a global brand, restored haute couture, and established Paris as the fashion capital of the world. While Christian Dior’s passing meant the house lost its illustrious leader and visionary, his successors did not disappoint. He was replaced by young designer Yves Saint Laurent, who had worked alongside Dior for two years, and in 1958, Laurent saved the label with his first collection. Instead of Dior’s signature hourglass, Laurent presented triangle shaped silhouettes featuring less fabric while still maintaining Dior’s fine tailoring. The collection was a turning point for Dior and a success. In the following years, successors Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré and John Galliano continued to push the boundaries of Dior. By 1990, Dior's revenue was $129.3 million USD rising to $177 million USD in 1995. In 1999, Gaillano shocked the world with his larger than life designs that blurred the line between clothing and sculpture. In the year 2000, menswear designer Hedi Slimane, working under the direction of Galliano, debuted the new and contemporary look of slim tapered menswear and birthed the skinny jean era in fashion. In 2012, Raf Simons replaced Galliano, returning Dior to its timeless and elegant roots of the “New Look '' silhouette. 2019 marked another turning point as menswear designer Kim Jones brought a streetwear influence the house had never seen before. This era included collaborations with Stussy and Jordan’s, resulting in 16% revenue growth in the first 9 months of Kim Jones’ collection, proving Dior was still a force in the Fashion industry able to reach a new sector of clientele.
Today, Dior is valued at approximately $7 billion USD with a market cap of $139.78 billion USD and continues to produce beautiful designs based on the classic feminine style that the label was built on. From the Bar Jacket to Jordan 1’s, the story of Dior is paved with countless moments of innovation and there is no doubt that the future will continue this legacy.