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Christian Dior S.A., commonly known as Dior, is a French luxury goods company controlled and chaired by businessman Bernard Arnault who also heads LVMH – the world’s largest luxury group. Dior itself holds 42.36% shares of and 59.01% voting rights within LVMH.
‘I create so that each woman is the most beautiful‘. Christian Dior
Founded in 1946 by the eponymous designer Christian Dior, today the company designs and retails ready-to-wear, leather goods, fashion accessories, footwear, jewelry, timepieces, fragrance, make-up, and skincare products while also maintaining its tradition as a creator of recognized haute-couture (under the Christian Dior Couture division). While the Christian Dior label remains largely for women’s offerings, the company also operates the Dior Homme division for men and the baby Dior label for children wear.
The House of Dior was established on 16 December 1946, in “a private house” at 30 Avenue Montaigne Paris B. However, the current Dior corporation celebrates “1947” as the opening year. Dior was financially backed by wealthy businessman Marcel Boussac. The new couture house became a part of “a vertically integrated textile business” already operated by Boussac. Its capital was at FFr 6 million and workforce at 80 employees.The company was really a vanity project for Boussac and was a “majorly owned affiliate of Boussac Saint-Freres S.A. Nevertheless, Monsieur Dior was allowed a then-unusual great part in his namesake label (legal leadership, a non-controlling stake in the firm, and one-third of pretax profits) despite Boussac’s reputation as a “control freak”. Monsieur Dior’s creativity also negotiated him a pleasant salary.
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The New Look
On 12 February 1947, Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring–Summer 1947. The show of “90 models of his first collection on six mannequins” was presented in the salons of the company’s headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne. Originally, the two lines were named “Corolle” and “Huit”. However, the new collection went down in fashion history as the “New Look” after the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar Carmel Snow exclaimed, “It’s such a New Look!”. The silhouette was characterised by a small, nipped-in waist and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length, which emphasised the bust and hips, as epitomized by the ‘Bar’ suit from the first collection.
At a time of post-war fabric restrictions, Dior used up to twenty yards of extravagant fabrics for his creations, favoring the luxury textiles of Robert Perrier. The New Look became extremely popular, its full-skirted silhouette influencing other fashion designers well into the 1950s, and Dior gained a number of prominent clients from Hollywood, the United States, and the European aristocracy. As a result, Paris, which had fallen from its position as the capital of the fashion world after WWII, regained its preeminence. The New Look was welcomed in western Europe as a refreshing antidote to the austerity of wartime and de-feminizing uniforms, and was embraced by stylish women such as Princess Margaret in the UK. According to Harold Koda, The Costume Institute curator in charge, Christian Dior credited Charles James with inspiring The New Look.
Available references contradict themselves whether Christian Dior Parfums was established in 1947 or 1948. The Dior corporation itself lists the founding of Christian Dior Parfums as 1947, with the launch of its first perfume, Miss Dior. Dior revolutionized the perfumery industry with the launch of the highly popular Miss Dior parfum, which was named after Catherine Dior (Christian Dior’s sister). Christian Dior Ltd owned 25%, manager of Coty perfumes held 35%, and Boussac owned 40% of the perfume business, headed by Serge Heftler Louiche. Pierre Cardin was made head of the Dior workshop from 1947 until 1950. In 1948, a New York City Christian Dior Parfums branch was established—this could be the cause of establishment-date issue. The modern Dior corporation also notes that “a luxury ready-to-wear house is established in New York at the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street, the first of its kind,” in 1948. In 1949, the “Diorama” perfume is released and by 1949, the New Look line alone made a profit FFr 12.7 million.
Expansion and death of Dior
Expansion from France began by the end of 1949 with the opening of a Christian Dior boutique in New York City. By the end of the year, Dior fashions made up 75% of Paris’s fashion exports and 5% of France’s total export revenue.
In 1950, Jacques Rouët, the general manager of Dior Ltd, devised a licensing program to place the now-renowned name of “Christian Dior” visibly on a variety of luxury goods. It was placed first on neckties and soon was applied to hosiery, furs, hats, gloves, handbags, jewelry, lingerie, and scarves. Members of the French Chamber of Couture denounced it as a degrading action for the haute-couture image. Nevertheless, licensing became a profitable move and began a trend to continue “for decades to come”, which all couture houses followed.
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Also in 1950, Christian Dior was the exclusive designer of Marlene Dietrich’s dresses in the Alfred Hitchcock film Stage Fright. In 1951, Dior released his first book, Je Suis Couturier (I am a Couturier) through publishers Editions du Conquistador. Despite the company’s strong European following, more than half of its revenue was generated in the United States by this time. Christian Dior Models Limited was created in London in 1952. An agreement was made between the Sydney label House of Youth for Christian Dior New York models. Los Gobelinos in Santiago, Chile, made an agreement with Dior for Christian Dior Paris Haute Couture. The first Dior shoe line was launched in 1953 with the aid of Roger Vivier. The company operated firmly established locations in Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and Italy by the end of 1953. As popularity of Dior goods grew, so did counterfeiting. This illegal business was supported by women who could not afford the luxury goods.
By the mid-1950s, the House of Dior operated a well-respected fashion empire. The first Dior boutique was established in 1954 at 9 Counduit Street. In honour of Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Marlborough, a Dior fashion show was held at the Blemhein Palace in 1954 as well. Christian Dior launched more highly successful fashion lines between the years of 1954 and 1957. However, none came as close to the profound effect of the New Look. Dior opened the Grande Boutique on the corner between Avenue Montaigne and Rue François Ier in 1955.The first Dior lipstick was also released in 1955. 100,000 garments had been sold by the time of the company’s 10th anniversary in 1956. Actress Ava Gardner had 14 dresses created for her in 1956 by Christian Dior for the Mark Robson film The Little Hut.
Christian Dior appeared on the cover of TIME dated 4 March 1957. The designer soon afterwards died from a third heart attack in 1957. The captivating impact of Dior’s creative fashion genius earned him recognition as one of history’s greatest fashion figures. Kevin Almond for Contemporary Fashion wrote that “by the time Dior died his name had become synonymous with taste and luxury.”
Dior: 1957 through the 1970s
The death of the head designer left the House of Dior in chaos and general manager Jacques Rouët considered shutting down operation worldwide. This possibility was not received graciously by Dior licensees and the French fashion industry; the Maison Dior was too important to the financial stability of the industry to allow such an action. To bring the label back on its feet, Rouët promoted the 21-year-old Yves Saint-Laurent to Artistic Director the same year. Laurent had joined the House’s family in 1955 after being picked out by the original designer himself for the position of the first ever and only Head Assistant.
Laurent initially proved to have been the most appropriate choice after the debut of his first collection for Dior (The mention of Dior from this moment on refers to the company) in 1958. The clothes were as meticulously made and perfectly proportioned as Dior’s in the same exquisite fabrics, but their young designer made them softer, lighter and easier to wear. Saint Laurent was hailed as a national hero. Emboldened by his success, his designs became more daring, culminating in the 1960 Beat Look inspired by the existentialists in the Saint-Germain des Près cafés and jazz clubs. His 1960 bohemian look was harshly criticized, and even more in Women’s Wear Daily. Marcel Boussac was furious, and, in the spring, when Saint Laurent was called up to join the French army—which forced him to leave the House of Dior—the Dior management raised no objection. Saint-Laurent left after the completion of six Dior collections.
Laurent was replaced at Dior by designer Marc Bohan in late 1960. Bohan instilled his conservative style on the collections. He was credited by Rebecca Arnold as the man who kept the Dior label “at the forefront of fashion while still producing wearable, elegant clothes,” and Women’s Wear Daily, not surprisingly, claimed that he “rescued the firm.” Bohan’s designs were very well esteemed by prominent social figures. Actress Elizabeth Taylor ordered twelve Dior dresses from Bohan’s Spring-Summer 1961 collection featuring the “Slim Look”.
The Dior perfume “Diorling” was released in 1963 and the men’s fragrance “Eau Sauvage” was released in 1966. Bohan’s assistant Philippe Guibourgé launches the first French ready-to-wear collection “Miss Dior” in 1967. This is not to be confused with the already existing New York Ready-to-Wear store established in 1948. Designed by Bohan, “Baby Dior” opens its first boutique in 1967 at 28 Avenue Montaigne. The Christian Dior Coordinated Knit line is released in 1968 and management of the Fashion Furs Department of Christian Dior is taken by Frédéric Castet. This year as well, Dior Parfums was sold to Moët-Hennessy (which would itself become LVMH) due to Boussac’s ailing textile company (the still-owner of Dior). This however had no effect on the House of Dior operations, and so the Christian Dior Cosmetics business was born in 1969 with the creation of an exclusive line.
Following this, Bohan launched the first Christian Dior Homme clothing line in 1970. A new Dior boutique at Parly II was decorated by Gae Aulenti and the “Diorella” perfume was released in 1972. Christian Dior Ready-to-Wear Fur Collection was created in France in 1973, and then manufactured under license in the United States, Canada, and Japan. 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, Nicaraguan First Lady Hope Portocarrero, 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 under the permission of the Paris Trade Court. The perfume “Dioressence” was released in 1979.
In 1980, Dior released the men’s fragrance “Jules”. After the Willot Group went into bankruptcy in 1981, Bernard Arnault and his investment group purchased it for “one symbolic franc” in December 1984. The Dior perfume “Poison” was launched in 1985. That same year, Arnault became chairman, chief executive officer, and managing director of the company. On assuming leadership, Arnault did away with the company’s mediocre textile operations, to focus on the Bon Marché department store and Christian Dior Couture. Operations for Christian Dior drastically changed for the better under Arnault. He repositioned it as the holding company Christian Dior S.A. of the Dior Couture fashion business. On the 40th anniversary of Dior’s first collection, the Paris Fashion Museum dedicated an exhibition to Christian Dior. In 1988, Arnault’s Christian Dior S.A.’s took a 32% equity stake into the share capital of Moët-Hennessy • Louis Vuitton through its subsidiary Jacques Rober, creating what would become one of the leading and most influential luxury goods companies in the world. Under this milestone merger, the operations of Christian Dior Couture and Christian Dior Parfums were once again united. Italian-born Gianfranco Ferré replaced Bohan as head designer in 1989. The first such non-Frenchman, Ferré left behind traditional Dior associations of flirtation and romance, and introduced concepts and a style described as “refined, sober and strict.” Ferré headed design for Haute Couture, Haute Fourrure, Women’s Ready-to-Wear, Ready-to-Wear Furs and Women’s Accessories collections. His first collection was awarded the Dé d’Or in 1989. That year, a boutique was opened in Hawaii and the LVMH stake by Jacques Rober rose to 44%.
Further Dior boutiques were opened in 1990 in upscale New York City, Los Angeles, and Tokyo shopping districts. The stake in LVMH rose again, to 46%.Another collection of watches named “Bagheera” – inspired by the round design of the “Black Moon” watches – was also released in 1990. Having fired the company’s managing executive Beatrice Bongbault in December 1990, Arnault took up that position until September 1991, when he placed former Bon Marché president Phillipe Vindry at the post.
In 1991, Christian Dior was listed on the spot market and then on the Paris Stock Exchange’s monthly settlement market, and the perfume “Dune” was launched. Vindry dropped ready-to-wear prices by 10%. Still, a wool suit from Dior would come with a price label of USD 1,500. 1990 revenue for Dior was USD 129.3 million, with a net income of $22 million. Dior was now reorganized into three categories: 1) women’s ready-to-wear, lingerie, and children’s wear 2) accessories and jewelry 3) menswear. Licensees and franchised boutiques were starting to be reduced, to increase the company’s control over brand product. Licensing was in fact reduced by nearly half because Arnault and Vindry opted “for quality and exclusivity over quantity and accessibility.” Wholly company-owned boutiques now opened in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Cannes, and Waikiki, adding to its core stores located in New York City, Hawaii, Paris and Geneva. This held a potential to increase direct sales and profit margins while maintaining high-profile locations.” In 1992, Dior Homme was placed under the artistic direction of Patrick Lavoix, and the “Miss Dior” perfume was relaunched. Francois Baufume succeeded Vindry in 1993 and continued to reduce licenses of the Dior name.
The production of Dior Haute Couture was spun off into a subsidiary named Christian Dior Couture in 1995. Also, the “La Parisienne” watch model was released – embodied in the watch “Parisian Chic”. By that year, revenue for the label rose to USD 177 million, with a net income of USD 26.9 million. Under the influence of Anna Wintour, editor and chief of Vogue,CEO Arnault appointed British designer John Galliano to replace Gianfranco Ferré in 1997 (Galliano on CBS News: “without Anna Wintour I would certainly not be at the house of Dior”). This choice of a British designer, once again instead of a French one, is said to have “ruffled some French feathers”. Arnault himself stated that he “would have preferred a Frenchman”, but that “talent has no nationality”. He even compared Galliano to Christian Dior himself, 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 symbolised Monsieur Dior. In all of his creations – his suits, his dresses – one finds similarities to the Dior style.” Galliano sparked further interest in Dior with somewhat controversial fashion shows, such as “Homeless Show” (models dressed in newspapers and paper bags) or “S&M Show”. Meanwhile, Dior licenses were being reduced further by new president and CEO Sidney Toledano. On 15 October 1997, the Dior headquarters store on Avenue Montaigne was reopened –it had been closed and remodeled by Peter Marino – in a celebrity-studded event including Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore and Jacques Chirac. That year, Christian Dior Couture also took over all thirteen boutique franchises from Japan’s Kanebo.
In May 1998, another Dior boutique was opened in Paris. This time the store opened its doors on the Left Bank, Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Also this year, Victoire de Castellane became lead designer of Dior Fine Jewellery and the first Dior Fine Jewellery boutique opened in New York City. Paris itself would witness the opening of the first Parisian Dior Fine Jewellery boutique the following year, at 28 Avenue Montaigne. The perfume “J’adore” was released in 1999, and on 5 October 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 Benedom joined the LVMH group. In 2000, Galliano’s leadership was extended to Ready to wear, accessories, advertising and communications. The first campaign under his leadership was photographed by Nick Knight and featured two girls simulating intercourse.
While other brands in the late 1990s, notably Gucci, had resorted to porn chic as a mean to draw attention, Dior ads had such an impact that porn chic became a trend in most fashion ads. Galliano ignited the escalation of porno chic advertisements, which culminated with Ungaro’s zoophilic ads, shot by Mario Sorrenti, and Gucci’s ads, which featured a girl with pubic hair shaped like the signature Gucci logo. As a matter of fact, it is considered that Galliano had revolutionized Dior more through his advertising campaigns then through his designs.
On 17 July 2000, Dior Homme lead designer Patrick Lavoix was replaced by Hedi Slimane. Notable Dior releases that year were watches such as the distinctive “Malice”, which features bracelets made of “CD” links, as well as the “Riva”. Hedi left Dior Home in 2007 and replaced by Kris Van Assche.
In 2001, the Dior Homme boutique on 30 Avenue Montaigne reopened with a new “contemporary masculine concept” instilled by its designer Hedi Slimane. Slimane used this concept in the creation of his first Dior Homme collection. Soon, Dior Homme gained prominent male clientele including Brad Pitt and Mick Jagger.
John Galliano then began to release his own Dior watches in 2001, beginning with the “Chris 47 Aluminum” line, marking a new era in Dior watch design. Next, the “Malice” and “Riva” watches were redesigned with precious stones to create the “Malice Sparkling” and “Riva Sparkling” spin-off collections. Inspired by the Spring-Summer 2002 Ready-to-Wear collection, Dior released the “Dior 66″ watch, breaking many feminine traditional expectations in design.
The men’s fragrance “Higher” was released in 2001, followed by the perfume “Addict” in 2002. The company then opened Milan’s first Dior Homme boutique on 20 February 2002. By 2002, 130 locations were in full operation. On 3 June 2002, Slimane was presented with the “International Designer of the Year” award by the CFDA. Until 2002, Kanebo was the Christian Dior ready-to-wear license holder in Japan and, when the license expired, Christian Dior was able to profitable directly sell its ready-to-wear and accessories in its own boutiques. The “Chris 47 Steel” watch was released in 2003 as a cousin of the original “Chris 47 Aluminum”. Bernard Arnault, his wife, Chloë Sevigny, and Sidney Toledano witnessed the opening of the Dior flagship boutique in the Omotesando district of Tokyo on 7 December 2003. The second Dior flagship store was opened in the upscale Ginza shopping district of Tokyo in 2004. An exclusive Dior Homme boutique was opened also that year in Paris on Rue Royale, and it presented the entire Dior Homme collection. A second Dior Fine Jewelry boutique in Paris was opened at 8 Place Vendôme. A Christian Dior boutique was opened in Moscow after the company took control of licensed operations of its Moscow agent.
The designer of launched her own watch named “Le D de Dior” (French: “The D of Dior”). signifying the entrance of Dior watches into its collection of fine Jewelry. This watch was designed for women but made use of many design features which are typically thought of as masculine. Slimane next released a watch for the Dior Homme collection called “Chiffre Rouge.” This special watch included the signature look of Dior Homme: “Watch design and technology match each other inseparably, to create the perfect expression of Dior Homme’s artistic excellence and to increase the watchmaking legitimacy of Dior timepieces.” De Castellane then launched her second line of watches called “La Baby de Dior”. The design for this line was meant to be more feminine with more of a “jewelry look.”
The “Miss Dior Chérie” perfume and the “Dior Homme” fragrance were released in 2005. Galliano released his “Dior Christal” watches in which he combined steel and blue sapphires to create a “creative and innovative collection.” Christian Dior S.A. then celebrated the 13th anniversary of Dior Watches in 2005, and, in April of that year, its “Chiffre Rouge” collection was recognized by the World Watches and Jewelry Show in Basel, Switzerland. Also in the year, the fashion house also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birthday of designer Christian Dior. An exhibition, “Christian Dior: Man of the Century,” was held in the Dior Museum in Granville, Normandy.
In 2006, the Dior watch booth was dedicated to the Dior Canework. This pattern was made by designer Christian Dior and based on the Napoleon III chairs used in his fashion shows.
In 2007, Kris Van Assche was appointed as the new artistic director of Dior Homme. Van Assche presented his first collection later that year. The 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Maison Dior was officially celebrated in 2007 as well.
By February 2011, the House of Dior was in scandal after accusations of John Galliano making anti-Semitic remarks made international headlines: the company found itself in a “public relations nightmare.” Galliano was fired in March and the scheduled presentation of his Fall-Winter 2011/2012 ready-to-wear collection went ahead without him, amid the controversy, on 4 March. Before the start of the show, chief executive Sydney Toledano gave a sentimental speech on the values of Christian Dior and alluded to the family’s ties to the Holocaust. The show closed with the staff of the atelier coming out to accept applause in the absence of their artistic director. (The previous January 2011 presentation of Spring-Summer 2011 haute-couture was the last appearance of Galliano on the Dior runway). The company went on ahead and appointed Bill Gaytten as head designer interim in absence of artistic director. Gaytten had worked under Galliano for Dior and for the John Galliano label. The first haute-couture collection (for the Fall-Winter 2011 season) under Gaytten’s management was presented in July and was received with mainly negative reviews. Meanwhile, speculation remained for months as it was unknown who would be selected to replace Galliano. During its 13-month period of having no artistic director, Dior began undergoing subtle changes in its designs as the influence of the theatrical and flamboyant Galliano faded. The all-new resigned dior.com was launched in late-2011.
In March 2015 it was announced that Rihanna was chosen as the official spokeswoman for Dior; this makes her the first black woman to take the spokeswoman position at Dior. In 2015, Israeli model Sofia Mechetner was chosen to be the new face of Dior.