You’ve heard of Dior, we know that. But, what did they do to make their name so established and respected? How did Dior conquer New York fashion?
The House of Dior, founded in 1946 by Christian Dior, is a French luxury goods company owned by the conglomerate LVMH.
The company designs and retails ready-to-wear fashion, leather goods, footwear, jewelry, timepieces, fragrance, makeup, and skincare products while also maintaining its tradition as a creator of haute-couture under the “Christian Dior Couture” division.
Dior was born in Granville, in Normandy, France on January 21st, 1905. His mother’s maiden name was Marie-Louise Demetrês, and his father was Maurice Louis Jean Pierre Dior; a prosperous fertilizer manufacturer who ran a family business that had been passed down several generations. When Christian was five years old the family moved to Paris where he would eventually study at the prestigious Lycée Condorcet before going on to attend art school at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. After leaving university without graduating due to financial reasons he worked for the fashion house Agnès b., designing dresses and stage costumes for chanson singers including Mistinguett. In 1938 he opened his own gallery with funding from his father called Galerie d’Art Moderne on Avenue Montaigne – one of Paris’ most fashionable streets even today. The gallery showcased works by contemporary artists such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró but it wasn’t profitable enough to keep afloat and closed shortly after opening.
In 1941 Dior was conscripted into service for the National machine industry board but due to health problems he was released just six months later and resumed working in fashion design; firstly for Lucien Lelong then for Robert Piguet where he met future business partner Jacques Becker. In 1946, Christian Dior met Jacques Becker, a young French director who would go on to become one of the most important cinematic voices of his generation. The two men instantly hit it off, and their collaboration would result in some of the most iconic fashion films ever made. Dior was fascinated by Becker’s work, and he saw in the young director a kindred spirit who shared his passion for style and elegance. The two men quickly became friends, and they began working together on a regular basis. Their first project was a short film called “La vie en rose,” which featured Dior’s latest collection. The film was a huge success, and it cemented the relationship between Dior and Becker. Over the next few years, the two men worked together on several more fashion films, including “Le Printemps des Amours” and “Les Jardins du Palais Royal.” These films helped to establish Dior as one of the leading fashion designers in the world, and they also solidified Becker’s reputation as an innovative filmmaker.
Dior first came to America in 1948, when he staged a now legendary fashion show at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City.
The event was a massive success, with socialites and celebrities flocking to see the latest creations from the House of Dior. American women were entranced by Dior’s “New Look,” which featured dresses with nipped-in waists, full skirts, and elaborate details like bows and ruffles. It was a stark contrast to the utilitarian clothing that had been in style during World War II, and women were eager to embrace this new femininity. After the initial success of his first trip to America, Dior decided to make New York City the base for his business operations in the United States. He opened a lavish flagship store on Fifth Avenue in 1952, complete with crystal chandeliers and walls lined with silk brocade. Dior quickly became a fixture on the New York social scene, throwing extravagant parties and mingling with celebrities like Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe. His over-the-top lifestyle fit perfectly with the city’s growing reputation as a place where anything (and everyone) could happen. By 1953, Christian Dior was firmly established as one of America’s most important fashion designers. His clothes were coveted by wealthy socialites and movie stars alike, cementing his status as a powerful player in both Hollywood and high society circles. Thanks to his strong relationships with retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, Dior’s designs were also accessible to everyday shoppers—a rarity for high fashion at that time.
In short, Christian Dior conquered New York City in the 1950s by combining cutting-edge design with old-world glamour—and plenty of star power along the way!