Dior’s evolution: from Yves to Galliano and the years in between

“I’m not a tailor, but a happiness maker.” (Yves Saint Laurent)

Yves Saint Laurent at Dior

It was 1957 when Christian Dior announced to the mother of his Algerian assistant, Yves Saint Laurent, hired two years before at the age of 19, that her son would have become the new revelation of the Fashion World and the new source of happiness for many women from that moment onward. “The most beautiful gown that can dress a woman are the arms of the man who loves her. However, for those who have not the possibility to find this happiness, I’m here.” Saint Laurent said.

ysl draw
Yves Saint Laurent at Dior

One year later, he exhibited his first collection for Dior, a success comparable to Dior’s collection of 1947. The newspapers reported that Saint Laurent had saved France, referring to the fact that he allowed the maison Dior to remain profitable after Christian Dior’s death. In fact, as mentioned in the previous episode, the survival of the maison was fundamental for French economy. The press appreciated the fact that the collection was not a countertrend, allowing for a change of designer without any additional shocks. Saint Laurent’s creations were artistically shapeless, making a huge impression and matching peoples taste due to their ease and convenience. “You loved beauty, Yves. It is unknown from where a taste, an instinct comes. Nobody teaches you this. From wherever we come, we are born with it.” affirmed Pierre Bergé, French industrial and patron, Saint Laurent’s life and business partner and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House. “I tried to show that fashion is an art. For that, I followed the counsel of my master Christian Dior and the imperishable lesson of Mademoiselle Chanel. I created for my era and I tried to foreseen what tomorrow will be.”

After a nervous breakdown, Yves Saint Laurent was fired from Dior. His place was taken by Marc Bohan, who was working for the Londoner branch and remained for 20 years. He was more plain with respect to his predecessor, both in his work and in his conduct. His first collection was appreciated by the press and by prominent social figures, but lacked innovation. It was in these years that the first Dior’s ready-to-wear collection, Miss Dior, was born, as also the first Baby Dior boutique and Christian Dior Homme clothing line, in 1970. Furthermore, in 1968 Dior Parfums was sold to Moët-Hennessy, and one year later Christian Dior Cosmetics was created. Anyway, despite the fact that he gave continuity to Dior’s style, due to his conservative approach in this sense, and made its business growth, Bohan wasn’t able to keep the firm among the avant gardes of fashion. Thus, he was fired.

bohan from vogue

Marc Bohan at Dior, by Vogue

He was substituted by Gianfranco Ferré, together with his odd and sumptuous style, characterized by so much richness that it could be considered the vision of a futuristic Christian Dior. It enhanced the sculptural face of Dior, by means of huge bows, tied around the neck or on the back, majestic, but, maybe, a bit old-fashioned.

gianfranco ferrè
Gianfranco Ferré at Dior

In 1997, John Galliano followed, personally chosen by Bernard Arnault, majority shareholder of Dior, CEO of LVMH and chairman of both companies, under the influence of Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue America. In fact, if Arnault foresaw the increase in profits thanks to a new advertising and editorial strategy, considering the Haute Couture as a main character in the marketing campaign, even Galliano himself recognised, in front of CBS News cameras, that without Anna Wintour he “would certainly not be at the house of Dior”. Arnault said he “would have preferred a Frenchman”, but “talent has no nationality.”, and in fact “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’s style.”. Thus, Galliano was the perfect art director, perfectly aligned with Dior’s principles: femininity, fantasy and love for the structured gowns. According to François Lesage, embroiderer for the maison, in the dresses Galliano realised for Dior there was the same architecture used by the tailors of Monsieur Dior. “Galliano is full of extravagance and of an extraordinary imagination. For him the woman’s body is not that important, or at least it is not an obsession. Galliano is focused on a chic woman, that he can make radiant.” said Jean Louis Scherrer, fashion designer for the maison from 1956 to 1959. In the first stages, it was a great success: the New Reaches loved this more ostentatious style. Anyway, the situation dramatically changed in 2010, when Galliano was filmed in a bar while entertained the crowed by means of racist and anti-Semite speeches, condemning the company to a “public relations nightmare”.

And when, how, did Dior wake up and recover from such a nightmare? To discover this don’t miss the next and last episode! But in the meanwhile, follow John Galliano’s suggestion and “Get it (Fashion) out of the tissue paper and be sensational every day.” because you “should have fun with Fashion, should enjoy wearing beautiful clothes, but also not save everything for the best. Fashion is there to be enjoyed, to be indulged, to wow in. Don’t save it for Sunday best only.”

Laura Gaudioso


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