by Aparajita Jaiswal
Christian Dior: missed designer and his legacy
1 May 2021
What we know about Christian Dior, commonly known as Dior, is that it’s a French luxury goods company controlled and chaired by French businessman Bernard Arnault, who also heads LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group. But what many of us do not know about the brand is its origin.
The company was founded in 1946 by designer Christian Dior. It currently designs and retails leather goods, fashion accessories, footwear, jewellery, timepieces, fragrance, makeup, and skin care products, while also maintaining its tradition as a creator of haute-couture under the Christian Dior Couture division. The Christian Dior label remains largely for women’s offerings, although the company also operates the Dior Homme division for men and the baby Dior label for children’s wear. Products are sold throughout its portfolio of retail stores worldwide, as well as through its online store.
The House of Dior was established on 16 December 1946 in “a private house” at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. However, the current Dior Corporation celebrates “1947” as the opening year. Businessman Marcel Boussac decided to financially back Dior. Boussac first invited Dior to design for Philippe et Gaston, but Christian Dior declined as he wanted to start his own brand instead of reviving an old one, leading to his first launch, New Look, a fashion collection for Spring–Summer 1947, on 12th February 1947. The company was a majorly owned affiliate of Boussac Saint-Freres S.A. and was really a vanity project for Boussac. Nevertheless, Dior had a non-controlling stake in the firm and allowed a great part of his namesake label despite Boussac’s reputation as a “Control freak”.
Expansion from France began by the end of 1949 with the opening of a Christian Dior boutique in New York City. After this, Christian Dior signed a contract with Douglas Cox for Dior to produce original designs and for Douglas Cox to create them in his Flinders Lane workshop in Australia.
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. 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.
The company operated firmly established locations in Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and Italy by the end of 1953. By the mid-1950s, the House of Dior operated a well-respected fashion empire. 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.
Christian Dior appeared on the cover of TIME dated 4 March 1957. The designer soon afterwards died from a third heart attack on 24 October 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.”
“Perfume is the indispensable complement to the personality of women, the finishing touch on a dress” ~Christian Dior
Dior without Christian Dior.
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. 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.
After change of multiple designers and various scandals, Dior now, presently, has created strong partnerships with Hollywood celebrities and social media influencers, working closely with these individuals to reach more demographics and re-establish its identity as a new, modern brand, despite the fact that it has been around for a while. Dior has effectively implemented social media into their marketing communication strategy, in which images and videos from campaigns are shared on both the official Dior profile, and on the celebrity ambassadors’ social media pages. An example of this success is seen in the Secret Garden campaign featuring Rihanna. Despite the reach not being completely suitable to the Dior target audience, collaborating with the likes of Rihanna allows the company to engage with more of the market, as Rihanna’s social media following is four times larger than that of the fashion house.