Dior exhibition in Moscow | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Wherever there is a brand, there must be brand consistency. The general shape of brand evolution is the spiral: all it takes to turn a dead circle into it is one step forward. Remixed reiteration, a change of form instead of contents, is common, but it is a rarity for a brand to freeze for a second and take the opposite direction.
Did it happen to Dior? Is Simons’ vision a mere step forward or a change of route? What would good old Christian say?
Dior. The name itself sounds like a revelation. Be French, almost skip the “r” and imagine stroking feline fur waiting forever in the dressing of room of your fickle actress girlfriend. Okay, okay, the association may be extreme, but even the most pragmatic of us would agree that if Dior took shape of a line, it would be the perfect curve. Leave the Chanel comfort for the straight line people.
Decidedly feminine, like white lace gloves and Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Dior is first and foremost a transparent fantasy, The Nutcracker ballet, and rose petal macaroons. It’s hard to believe that it begun as the exact right idea for the right time. A thought, a project, not a midsummer dream.
1940’s fashion was plagued by World War II. It was a numbers’ game: exactly this much fabric for this many people. If you’re not going to be a pacifist for the sake of exploding people, be one for the love for fashion. The utilitarian approach left nothing in excess, because it couldn’t afford it.
Then, in 1945 Hitler famously lost, giving 42-year old Christian from Normandy a chance to start his fashion house and manifest the return of joy to the dress. The 1947 collection, called “Corolle” (meaning flower petals), set the tone for all '50s style with the ravishing “new look.”
The ladies of the time didn’t wait for admirers to send them flowers. They became flowers themselves. The silhouette was all about corsets with bell-shaped skirts and, so, extra fabric. This unnecessary, waster’s approach was a natural reaction to the confines of wartime. Christian Dior knew that fashion goes in spirals, too. And that sometimes a fashion step forward is a shocked step away from something else.
After Christian came Saint Laurent and his tweed blazers with the typical Dior skirts. Then Marc Bohan and weird hats with the typical Dior skirts, followed by Ferre’s glitter with the typical Dior skirts. The motto was adding twists without changing the concept. In 1996, Galliano was appointed, and everyone got front seat to the magical theatre of magnified, amplified, and intoxicated Dior.
Galliano's Dior | Photo: ELLE
Galliano’s Dior was all excess and witchcraft; less elegant than the original, yet louder, more triumphant. The girls were less delicate, but had more character. Christian’s Diorette would blow you a kiss, but Galliano’s Diorette would blow your mind.
People who want to spend the money spent on creating haute couture more reasonably should watch Dior S/S 2009, fall in love, find God, and maybe change their minds. Dior at the time was pure art and fabulous unnecessities. Too bad the dreamy farce ended in scandal.
Once upon a time, John goes to a bar and gets drunk. Then John says something about loving Hitler and, since it is illegal in France, gets fired from Dior. Apologies don’t help. This is a tale with no happy ending. But let’s leave the lawyers to discuss free speech and employment and talk about irony.
In his last collection (S/S 2010), Galliano returned to Christian’s silhouettes and more elegant cuts. The circle was complete and the era ended with love for Adolf, the villain originale of the Dior play. It only seems natural that Raf Simons, Dior’s current designer, is a famous minimalist, doesn’t it?
Raf's Dior | Photo: ELLE
You’re about to describe something in excruciating detail, laud its merits with SAT words, or mourn its loss in a Shakespearean sonnet, but the minimalist stops you. “More to the point,” he says, “all of that extra is, well…a little extra. Can’t you be simpler?” And, of course, you can. The return to minimalism is inevitable; it’s haunting my daydreams about lavish extravagance with its serene symbolism.
Simons is a big fan of it. His Dior is crisp and pure, but strangely out of place. The recent collection referenced Christian’s New Look, but it’s hardly possible to merge two opposing ideas. I see Raf’s Diorette’s bell skirt getting paler and paler, leaving but the shadow of a silhouette. She’s still wearing the dress, but the dress means something else nowadays.
The Dior Philosophy
I’m not old enough for inevitable minimalism, but maybe Dior is. Maybe it is time for the brand to retire back into the '40s modesty (Wasn’t free speech banned during Third Reich, too?) and stop with the airheaded dreams.
Maybe, indeed, we spend too much money on haute couture and not enough time thinking about equality… But before the coming years transform Dior, before the dream fizzles out, and the carriage turns into a pumpkin, let’s think about everything Dior - everything beautifully unnecessary, wastefully grand. All the explosive self-expression and dramatic passions, all the waltzing, star-gazing, and love letters. All the magnificent unnecessities.
After all, like a Robin Williams character once said, even though there are many noble pursuits to sustain life, “but poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Which Dior is your favorite? Is minimalism the culmination of any lavishness and vice versa? Tell us in the comments.