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Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A


The Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum in London is a true tribute to the exquisite beauty, craftsmanship and pure decadence that is Haute Couture. Opulent fabrics, time-consuming hand-stitched embellishments, meticulously crafted silhouettes Haute Couture is the antithesis of what so-called ‘fast fashion’ is today.

Established in 1947 Christian Dior introduced the influential ‘New Look’ a silhouette that became synonymous with the brand, he was also the first to introduce a fragrance, Miss Dior, alongside his very first show. Six, very carefully selected, artistic directors succeeded Dior and the brand has continued to retain its exclusive allure up until the present day. So much so that the entire run for the exhibition sold out in just three-weeks after opening. Do to demand the V&A decided to extend the exhibition by a further seven weeks until Sunday 1 September 2019, which has once again sold out.

FashionCapital’s editor, JoJo Iles, and the Fashion Technology Academy’s current cohort of apprentices were all fortunate enough to gain tickets and attend. Based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the exhibition was reimagined for the V&A. Additionally a brand-new section explored the designer’s fascination with British culture. Dior admired the grandeur of the great houses and gardens of Britain, as well as British-designed ocean liners, including the Queen Mary. He also had a preference for Savile Row suits. His first UK fashion show took place at London’s Savoy Hotel, and in 1952 he established Christian Dior London. The exhibition investigates Dior’s creative collaborations with British manufacturers, including Dents (gloves), Rayne (shoes) Lyle & Scott (knitwear) and Mitchel Maer (costume jewellery). It also focuses on his most notable early British clients, from author Nancy Mitford to ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn. A highlight is the Christian Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday celebrations, on loan from the Museum of London.

“Dior’s embrace of British elegance, from the craftsmanship of Savile Row to the prestige of the Queen Mary, underscores the timeless fusion of French couture and British classicism,” says Ryan Thompson from male fashion magazine Men’s Flair. “The V&A exhibition not only showcases this cross-channel sartorial dialogue but also pays homage to Dior’s British muses and collaborators, illustrating the enduring impact of this iconic designer on international fashion.”

Drawn from the extensive Dior Archives, the exhibition presents over 500 objects, with over 200 rare Haute Couture garments shown alongside accessories, fashion photography, film, vintage perfume, original make-up, illustrations, magazines, and Christian Dior’s personal possessions. It also showcases highlights from the V&A’s world-class Couture collections, including the iconic Bar Suit, gifted to the museum by the House of Dior in 1960 with the help of Cecil Beaton.

Flowers are emblematic of the Couture House and have inspired silhouettes, embroidery and prints. From horticulture to global travel and historicism, the show reveals the sources of inspiration that defined the House of Dior’s aesthetic. From the daring designs of Yves Saint Laurent to the rational style of Marc Bohan, the flamboyance of Gianfranco Ferré, the exuberance of John Galliano, the minimalism of Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist vision of fashion, the exhibition shows how each successive artistic director has stayed true to Dior’s vision of Haute Couture, while bringing their own creative sensibilities to the House.

For those wanting a real ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse at the making side of a Dior garment there is a room dedicated to toiles from the Dior Ateliers showing key designs being worked out pre-production. Spread out across 11 sections the exhibition explores the New Look, the influence of historical dress, the inspiration of flowers and gardens, how the six successors shaped the fashion house and more. Concluding on a high is the jaw-dropping Ballroom showcasing 70 years of stunning formal eveningwear, which really shows off the incredible skills of the Haute Couture Ateliers.

Oriole Cullen, Fashion and Textiles Curator at the V&A, said: “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. The V&A recognised Dior’s important contribution to design history early-on in his career, acquiring his sketches and garments from the 1950s onwards. 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. More than seventy years after its founding, the V&A’s exhibition celebrates the enduring influence of the House of Dior and reveals new research about Dior’s relationship with Britain.”

Hawwa Diment, Apprentice at Ralph & Russo said: “I feel extremely lucky to have been given the chance to attend this exhibition. Getting to see the toiles and couture gowns in person felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s amazing to see the calibre of craftsmanship and tradition of excellence that Dior has established and maintained. As someone training at a fashion house the exhibition has demonstrated the level I should be striving for in my work. Dior has managed to create an aesthetic that is timeless and elegant, which are attributes that I hope to encapsulate when creating garments.” 

JoJo Iles, editor at FashionCapital added: “What an incredibly beautiful exhibition, so much attention to detail using a combination of actual garments with sketches, photographs, artefacts and film. You got a real sense of what the Dior brand was all about and the amount of skill and craft that goes into each and every piece. This is an exhibition not to miss.”

If you have yet to see Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams there is still the chance, a very limited amount of tickets are available to purchase daily at 10am from the Grand Entrance on a first-come, first-served basis; these tickets are for times throughout the day on that day only. Or there is a late-view option available. Visit: https://www.vam.ac.uk/

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