A Dior retrospective is showing in Paris in what I imagine will be the biggest drawcard this year. The Dior exhibition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the fashion house with over 300 gowns on display. The curation is incredible including vintage photos, art works, fashion collections and of course the perfumes. The fashion runs from the post war 1940’s through to the current day with the first woman designer at the helm, Maria Grazia Chiuri. The history of the house is incredible to see as we move through the decades.
Seeing the range of creations across the 70 years in one place was instructive. Designs are featured from all of the creative directors of the house starting with Christian Dior, then to Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano (seen in the fifth to last photo below), Raf Simons (seen in the fourth to last photo below), to today’s Maria Grazia Chiuri. The fashions designed by Dior himself are drop dead gorgeous from the New Look era. The 50’s gowns are also stunning, in the dress up Mad Man era. Raf Simons designs are also incredible and seeing them along with the other designers’ works made me realise that the DNA of the brand was very strong throughout his tenure. I’d always thought of his creations as too polished, lacking a twist but seen in the historical context of the house and up close they were exquisite. Galliano‘s are of course show stoppers and completely over the top. He definitely brought an extroversion to Dior that wasn’t evident previously and was able to tell stories through his gowns. There is a wave dress based on Hokusai‘s painting that my photo doesn’t do justice but it is truly outstanding.
The vintage perfumes are featured throughout the Colorama section where we see a mix of dresses, accessories and perfumes from different eras linked by colour. There is a small perfume feature later in the exhibition too. It introduces the in house perfumer François Demachy but interestingly no mention that I could find (although it might be there somewhere) of Edmond Roudnitska, creator of a handful of Dior’s classic perfumes : Diorissimo, Diorella, and Eau Sauvage. There is however a feature on Serge Lutens who is simply a genius when you see how many fields he has excelled in. He created the first Dior makeup collection and there’s an excerpt of a short film that he created called Les Stars that was made in 1973 but still seems totally of the now.
The artwork and photographs are just fantastic at the beginning of the show, featuring Dior’s inspirations such as Dali’s Retrospective Bust Of A Woman (see the first photo below). Beautiful photos including Helmut Newton‘s Dovima with Elephants (1955) are there and other gorgeous prints including more modern works. There is a lot to take in and I confess I had to skip through many areas as they were so crowded and are perhaps too small for the interest they were generating. The Yves Saint Laurent section was jam-packed and I could hardly get a look in there.
It is interesting to see how houses such as Dior need to pay homage to their history but also create beautiful items that modern women (with a lot of cash) want to wear today. For those of us who don’t have a fortune to spend on clothes, the perfumes and make up are the entry point to the brand and probably the only Dior I’ll ever be buying. I did think that more could have been made of the stand alone perfume section, although you will see some stunning vintage bottles. Seen in the fifth photo below is the invite to the launch of Poison at the Chateau de Vaud le Vicompte in 1985. A most memorable perfume that I have fond memories of as my mother wore the scent in the 80’s.
The exhibition is simply a visual feast and the layers upon layers of history of this house make it something that will stay with you. I strongly recommend a visit if you’re in Paris. There is a lot to see and I regret already that I didn’t spend longer there. It is very warm inside as the air conditioning hardly appeared to be functioning so dress lightly. Be prepared for gigantic queues too, so definitely buy a ticket online so you can jump straight to the front. I will try to go back for another visit to pay more attention as there are such beautiful things to see and the details are impressive. I’m very tempted to buy the book now too that you can purchase on the website and in the store.
Here are a few photos that provide only a small glimpse into the fabulosity. Enjoy. The exhibition is on until January 2018.
Musée des Arts décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
Phone: +33 (0)1 44 55 57 50