Following more than a year of speculation, French fashion house Christian Dior finally announced April 9 that Belgian creator Raf Simons has replaced John Galliano as the label’s creative director, with the former Jil Sander designer telling The New York Times’ Suzy Menkes he is aiming for a “very modern Dior” when he presents his debut line at Paris Couture Week this July. But with the designer adding that he plans to “also look back” and take inspiration from the 1947-1957 period of the fashion house, Relaxnews considers the label’s past creative directors and their contribution to the Dior aesthetic.
The label’s founder and namesake heralded what became known as the New Look back in 1947 when he presented a particularly feminine collection dominated by long flowing skirts, tiny waists and soft shoulders, which provided a stark contrast to the slinky silhouette of the 1930s. Top clients included Marlene Dietrich and The Duchess of Windsor, while today’s stars continue to embrace his ladylike designs -- Natalie Portman wore a red polka dot haute couture creation conceived by Dior in 1954 to this year’s Academy Awards.
Yves Saint Laurent
Before founding his namesake maison in 1962, Yves Saint Laurent achieved fame as Dior’s successor, with his debut show in 1958 adding a sense of youthfulness to the brand with a softer interpretation of the New Look. While later experiments with hobble skirts and a beatnik aesthetic didn’t go down so well with the press at the time, Saint Laurent left his biggest mark with the trapeze dress he showcased in 1958. With its free-swinging shape, the loose-fitting style was a stark contrast to Dior’s cinched-in creations.
Bohan remains the longest-serving couturier at Dior to date, and although his creations were more conservative than those of his predecessors, the designer ensured the maison remained one of the world’s most in demand with top clients including Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco. One of Bohan’s most acclaimed collections was the Fall/Winter 1966 line, with its tweed coats, fur trims and long black boots inspired by the movie Doctor Zhivago.
The first non-French creator at the helm of Dior, Italy’s Gianfranco Ferré was chosen by owner Bernard Arnault to replace Bohan, and his eclectic collections brought plenty of differing elements to the Dior aesthetic ranging from a dandy influence to Renaissance shapes, although it wasn’t until the appointment of Galliano in 1996 that the label would return to its most pioneering roots.
Combining Dior’s fondness for femininity with a strong theatrical influence, British fashion designer Galliano embraced Kabuki styling and gave the fashion house a much more distinct aesthetic, notably with his flamboyant haute couture shows. His designs were embraced by everyone from the late Princess Diana to actress and fashion maverick Tilda Swinton, who wore a huge fruit-printed Dior gown to the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.