Christian Dior - the mystery and the magic
Feb 2023

According to Christian Dior, “ A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.”

As a connoisseur of all things ladylike, the words of the legendary fashion designer should be respected. In 1946, fashion designer Christian Dior exploded onto the Paris fashion scene with designs that flew in the face of wartime restrictions and reintroduced femininity and luxury to women's fashion.

Christian Ernest Dior (21 January 1905 – 24 October 1957) was born into a wealthy family and had his heart set on a career in architecture. However, his father had other ideas and thought a career in diplomacy was better. A compromise was reached when after studying political science at Ecole des Sciences Politiques in Paris, his father sponsored him to start a small art gallery. Following the closing of his gallery, Dior began to make ends meet by selling his fashion sketches, and in 1935, he landed a job illustrating the magazine Figaro Illustré. When World War II began the following year, Dior served in the south of France as an officer in the French army.

After the war ended, he founded and established the Dior fashion house. He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes. His "New Look" revolutionised women's fashion and contributed to the re-establishment of Paris as the centre of the fashion world. Dior had attracted attention with his overt use of fabric, bustier-style bodices, wasp waists and curvaceous silhouettes and was heralded as an overnight sensation.

Christian Dior started the brand in Paris at 30 Avenue Montaigne. It took less than three months from the brand's launch to its first collection on Feb. 12, 1947. Stars flocked to Christian Dior; everyone from Rita Hayworth to Margot Fonteyn wanted to outfit themselves in this “New Look” that was ahead of its time. Princess Margaret and Marilyn Monroe were also devotees. With such high-profile women donning his clothes, the brand grew quickly and cemented itself as one of the most iconic in sartorial history. He even outfitted Marlene Dietrich for her 1950 role in Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright.

In 1947 Dior also launched his first perfume intending to create “a fragrance that is like love”. Christian’s sister Catherine served as a member of the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation during World War Two. She was captured by the Gestapo and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp until her liberation in 1945. Dior named his debut fragrance Miss Dior to honour the heroism of his sister. The scent is created from notes of gardenia, galbanum and bergamot; carnation, iris, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose and narcissus.

Christian Dior died of a sudden heart attack while on vacation in Montecatini, Italy, on 24 October 1957 in the late afternoon while playing a game of cards .1957 Dior became the first designer to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine, proving he was true fashion royalty. According to his wishes, Yves Saint Laurent became his successor and was named artistic director of the haute couture house at the age of 21. Dior's funeral was attended by an estimated 2,500 people, including his staff and many of his most famous clients.

Vintage Dior dresses are in high demand, with celebrities like Bella Hadid and Jennifer Aniston spotted on the red carpet in original “New Look” Christian Dior gowns. Authenticity is determined by the reference number, which is found on the care label, indicating the year and the season. Today tennis sensation Emma Raducanu is one of the youngest faces of Dior after signing a multi-year deal, and actress Anya Taylor-Joy ( The Queen’s Gambit) is an ambassador for Dior's clothing and makeup lines. Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard, Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman have also headlined as the face of the Dior brand. Since Christian Dior’s era, the Dior house has gone from strength to strength and has had at its head some of the world’s most talented designers, from Yves Saint Laurent to John Galliano and Raf Simons. And now, for the first time in its history, there is a woman at the helm of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri.