“Dior. A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947 – 57).” is another fascinating book released by V&A Publishing. It presents Christian Dior and the House of Dior from different perspective, taking into consideration sociological, historical and economical factors related to the famous New Look and true revolution in fashion that it started. What makes this publication even more interesting are unique pictures presenting life of a couture house from the inside.
The author takes readers through the post war France, giving a good introduction of Haute Couture market just before and right after the war, focusing on historical and social backgrounds. Becoming familiar with the subject, one can better understand the social uproar and global discussion initiated by the New Look, which changed the model of femininity and brought back the “old days”, taking back achievements of various movements promoting gender equality as well as undermining fashions that liberated women from restrictions of corsets and crinolines, making them once again into beautiful and simpleminded mannequins, whose main purpose is to display wealth of their spouses or senior family members. Dashing woman dressed in Dior’s New Look was definitely fragile and flowerlike, stunningly chic, but also highly restricted in her movements and forced to strict diet, as hardly any woman was gifted by nature with measurements idolized by Dior.
Christian Dior was not only a visionary and talented designer, but also a meticulous businessman. Supported by well organized financial department as well as having implemented elements of market intelligence, the House of Dior was well run commercial enterprise, a forerunner for global corporations, with overseas offices in New York and London, numerous partnerships and license agreements. Throughout his career, Dior took every possible measure to ban illegal copies and stop wide spread practices of fashion espionage and copy right abuse. Considering that in 1958 the Dior couture house alone had an annual revenue of $ 8 million and was accounted for over 50% of total export of Haute Couture, he had a lot to protect!
It is hardly the first time that I write about Haute Couture, the true art in fashion. Couture can bring dream designs to life, representing the divine art of creation in fashion, uniting feminine beauty with artisan skills of cutters, seamstresses and embroiderers. Haute Couture is a vanishing world, available only to few who are privileged enough to participate in this spectacle of beauty and able to pay vast sums of money for those one of a kind creations.
As close as I had ever been to Haute Couture was in Paris, when I had a chance to see an exhibition of some magnificent Couture gowns. The impression was unforgettable, worth the long wait in front of Hôtel de Ville. I still recall some details, fabrics and colors, simply wonderful. And unless my life shifts completely and showers me with an unimaginable wealth, this is as near as I will ever get. Does it mean I should stop dreaming my Couture dreams? I do not think so! Beauty can be admired from afar, like paintings or sculptures, influencing viewer by its charm.
I like to watch Haute Couture fashion shows and see newest designs presented by my favorite fashion houses, and up till now, this one is my very favorite one, Christian Dior Spring Couture 2012 designed by Bill Gaytten. Even though it was featured some months back, I would like to present it once more, for the beauty so close to the atmosphere of the original New Look designs.
To linger a little bit longer in Carmel Snow’s era, a retrospective photo editorial published by LIFE magazine, featuring Christian Dior and the birth of the New Look. Revolutionary fashion that caused street riots, but for decades influenced world fashion.
Carmel Snow, larger than life editor of the American Harpers Bazaar, who before joining the enemy camp worked in the American Vogue under none other than Edna Chase. A woman who discovered Diana Vreeland, promoted Richard Avedon and numerous personas in the fashion industry, one who loved fashion, never step away from a challenge and lived her life “with a dash of daring”.
Born in Ireland as Carmel White, she moved with her mother and numerous siblings to United States of America in pursue of better life and open career opportunities. As a young woman, she worked at her mother’s New York based couture shop, after hours being a notorious fun loving girl, who was rumored to sleep while dancing. Her encounter with Conde Nast secured her a position in the American Vogue, where she continued for several years, staying in the shadow of the imperious Edna Chase. Carmel, now Snow, after her marriage to Palen Snow, couldn’t fully realize her enormous creative potential and at one point in her life did the unthinkable, joining Harpers Bazaar and moving to Hearst publishings. This betrayal was never forgiven, but… if not for her bold decision, we might have never had Harpers Bazaar as the glamorous magazine as we know it today. The rest is history with a truly amazing heroine at the centre of a stage.
Once responsible for Harpers Bazaar, as an editor in chief, Carmel Snow transformed this declining magazine into real fashion book, presenting innovative photo editorials, offering articles and stories contributed by reputable writers as well as giving us Vreeland’s ever famous “Why Don’t You…?” column (“Why Don’t You… tie an enormous bunch of silver balloons on the foot of your child’s bed on Christmas Eve?”). Her fascination with French couture made her take many risks, like traveling to Paris in 1944 in order to report latest designs to her American readers as well as inform about the extend of war tragedies and destructions. Her efforts to revive French Couture were recognized in 1949, when Mrs. Snow received Legion of Honor.
According to Christian Dior, “no show ever began until Mrs. Snow arrived”. Later on in his career Dior had many reasons to offer her best sits during presentations of his collections, as it was Carmel Snow herself who baptized his innovative 1947 line into world famous New Look. Carmel Snow had an extraordinary intuition when it came to fashion and an impeccable sense of style, that distinguished her from even most fashionable crowd. She was the most respected and at the same time feared persona in the world of fashion magazines, her wit as well as sharpness were legendary. As observed by Hubert de Givenchy, “She registered more than anyone else. Her talent was enormous. Madame Snow understood”. Even though her retirement was turbulent and quite sad to say the least, till this day Carmel Snow is an icon of fashion journalism and her story is definitely worth reading.
This season a number of designers looked towards orient in search of inspiration. So did Giorgio Armani presenting latest Haute Couture collection for Armani Privé, creating an alluring and feminine collection that could easily illustrate the book of “One Thousand and One Nights”. There is a lot to be admired about it, colors and deliciously rich fabrics, that dress women like heroines from the pages of Arabian tales.
To me, Haute Couture creations are associated with elaborate, ladylike and sophisticated designs, just like seen at Valentino or Elie Saab catwalks, but this season Giambattista Valli proved that Haute Couture can as well be a Hot Couture. Dresses presented for Spring season are alluring, sexy and very… short. I loved the first one in shocking pink and with floral motives. If not for the price, that would be my very first choice!
Looking at Fall Couture by Armani Privé I am almost waiting for Daisy Buchanan to materialize behind my back and ask “Gatsby, what Gatsby?”. The collection brings back the decadent atmosphere of the “roaring twenties”, full of splendor, extravagance and fragile feminine beauty.
The very first time when I came across information on books written by Christian Dior was when reading Christian Dior’s biography by Marie France Pochna. I felt so excited! Books by Christian Dior himself! Moreover, books about the history of the House of Dior, the New Look and, most exciting of all, on style and chic as seen by one of my ultimate fashion gurus. As easy to guess, I had to have them! Thanks to V&A Publications the task wasn’t so complicated as it might have seem in the beginning. Some search on the internet and voila!, order was placed.
I started from “Dior by Dior”, wanting to know behind the scene history of this great couturier and his revolutionary creations. I was a little worried that maybe Monsieur’s Dior talents were limited to couture only, but to my great surprise, he had a way with words and was a gifted storyteller.
His autobiography tells a lot about the establishing the House of Dior, giving an insight into fascinating details and allowing one feel the atmosphere of the great Couture house. A reader will know more about creation of a collection, organization of a fashion show, sales, marketing as well as overseas establishments in both New York and London.
Dior’s philosophy was to make women look beautiful and be charming. As easy to guess, dressing at 30 avenue Montaigne wasn’t available to many considering the expense, but as Madame Linzeler, one of Dior’s trusted associates remarked, “The best bargain in the world is a successful dress. It brings happiness to the woman who wears it, and is never too dear for the man who pays for it. The most expensive dress in the world is a dress which is a failure. It infuriates the woman who wears it and it is a burden to the man who pays for it.”