Christian Dior was an influential French fashion designer. He was born on January 21, 1905 in Granville, France. When he was 5 years old, his family moved to Paris. From 1923 to 1927 he was studying and in 1927 he did his compulsory military service.
In 1928 Dior and his friend Jacques Bonjean opened an art gallery on rue de la Boetie. In 1931 Dior's beloved mother died, his brother also died and his family became ruined financially.
He visited the Soviet Union and on his return found that his partner Bonjean had also become ruined. He fell seriously ill and left Paris for a year, returning in 1935. His friend Jean Ozenne gave him a place to stay and helped him to start sketching dresses and hats. Dior started to sell his sketches some of which were purchased by milliner Agnes. He also meets Robert Piguet, who bought some sketches, and some were published in "Le Figaro". In 1938 Robert Piguet opened a fashion house, and Dior took his first job, when he joined him as a designer. However as the war had started, he had to leave Piguet and joined the military after a year.
In 1941 after military service on his return to Paris, he joined Lucien Lelong as a designer. At Lelong, Dior was happy, he could design more or less as he pleased and he could remain in the background, as he preferred to do, with his problem of shyness.
In 1946, backed by textile magnate Marcel Boussac, he established his main house of couture in Paris. In twelve years he expanded his business to 15 countries and employed over 2,000 people.
Dior is known mainly for the 1947 "New Look" which employed narrow shoulders, constricted waist, emphasized bust, and long, wide skirt. His designs represented consistent classic elegance, stressing the feminine look.
1947 Christian Dior perfume company is set up and he christens the first perfume "Miss Dior".
Pierre Cardin joins Dior and remains there until 1950.
1948 Dior luxury ready-to-wear is set up in New York. It is the first of it's kind.
1950 Dior stockings, ties, all other accessories are marketed in the USA under licence.
1951 Dior furs opens in Paris.
1952 onwards Dior salons are opened in London, Caracas, and many other cities
1955 Yves St. Laurent becomes Dior's first and only designing assistant.
1955 Launch of Dior lipsticks and beauty products.
In 1957 suddenly Christian Dior dies of a heart attack and Yves St. Laurent takes over as the firm's artistic head. The fashion world was stunned The house of Dior employed over 1200 employees, spread among 28 workrooms and it's own police force to prevent pirating. It was a million dollar firm and his death represented a very great challenge to the house of Dior and even France itself.
But there was no need to worry. The house of Dior had within it two young designers who would ensure the future of Paris as the capital of fashion as well as the future of the house of Dior. One was Yves St. Laurent, who took over and presented a fantastic first collection, the Trapeze line and the other was Marc Bohan who followed YSL and remained nearly 30 years as head of Dior and himself had a very well received first collection the SLIM line.
Yves St. Laurent came to the notice of Christian Dior through his friend Michel de Brunhoff. De Brunhoff was the chief judge of a competition set by the International Woold Secretariat in 1953, which was won by Yves St. Laurent, who submitted a design of an asymmetrically draped one-sleeved cocktail dress.
De Brunhoff told Dior that he must take this young man into his salon, and although Dior was not initially keen to do so, when he saw his designs, he agreed. Dior only had one assistant throughout his life, and this was Yves St. Laurent.
While he was at Dior, he designed many dresses which appeared in the 6-monthly collections, particuarly 'bubble dresses" which were drawn in at the hemline on a band.
Dior felt that he was not being recognized enough for his work and did have plans to give him more recognition, but he died before these plans could be put into place.
Yves St. Laurent's first collection for Dior was called the "Trapeze" line and it was a great success. The newspaper headlines read:
"St. LAURENT HAS SAVED FRANCE, THE GREAT DIOR TRADITION WILL CONTINUE"
Yves St. Laurent presented 6 collections for Dior. His 1959 collection was not very well received because he raised the hemline to the knees, belted every waist tightly and pulled the skirt into a tight kneeband. YSL was not very concerned about the criticism as he said "indignation is a good sign, it means fashion is alive and well."
1960 The Spring/Summer collection was also very shocking, it was Beatnik, motor-cycle jackets made of alligator skin, mink coats with ribbed sweater sleeves and turtlenecks under finely cut suits. The staff at Dior felt YSL had misjudged the Dior clientele.
In 1960, Yves St. Laurent was called for military service, and on his return he found that Marc Bohan had been given charge of the House of Dior. St. Laurent was very angry about this, and sued legally against Dior since he had a contract for the position with Dior. He was granted compensation of 48,000 pounds and used this to set up his own salon.
1960 Marc Bohan was 34 years old when he took over Dior.
1961 Dior under Marc Bohan presents the first collection the "Slim Line" which is very well received.
1967 Miss Dior ready-to-wear is opened in France, and a "Baby Dior" boutique is opened. 1968 Dior knitwear Co-ordinates is opened. 1970 Dior menswear is launched. 1973 Dior ready-to-wear fur collection is launched.
1987 Musee de la Mode presents an exhibition of Dior creations to mark the 30th anniversary of his death.
In 1989, there was another change of designer at Dior.
Gianfranco Ferre designed from 1989 till 1997 for Dior.
The house of DIOR is still one of the most successful Haute Couture houses in the world. John Galliano took over in 1997 and brought a new creative image for the house of Dior.
In 2001, Dior appointed Hedi Slimane as chief designer for Dior Menswear.
In late 2001, Dior opened a new jewellery store in the Place Vendome in Paris, alongside all the leading jewellers Carter, Chaumet, Boucheron and Van Cleef and Arpels. The new store was personally set up by Victoria de Castellane who runs Dior's jewellery activities. John Galliano has set up a new Dior Baby store in London, opening it's doors in June 2005. All the smartest baby clothes will be available there, as well as designer Teddy Bears.