Fashion Biography

Christian Dior, Fashion Designer


Christian Dior is the most recognized name in fashion. Fashion Designer Christian Dior was born in Normandy, France in 1905. At his parents" insistence, he studied political science. After military service and several years of indecision, he returned to Paris in 1935 and began his design career by selling sketches. His hat designs were initially more successful than his dress designs. But he concentrated on his dress designs and was hired by Robert Piguet in 1938. During the war, he served in the South of France, then returned again to Paris in 1941 and worked for Lucien Lelong, a much larger design house. In 1946, he was able to open his own house, backed by textile manufacturer Marcel Boussac.

For his first collection in 1947, he created the extremely popular New Look, which featured rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and a very full skirt. Dior created an opulent clothing style which contrasted the severe living conditions of post war France. After the war, he helped to re establish Paris as the capital of world fashion . Dior became the last great dictator of style in the 1950s. Each collection throughout this period had a theme classic suits, ballerina length skirts, the H line in 1954, and A and Y lines in 1955.

Together with his partner Jaques Rouet, Dior was the pioneer for license agreements in the fashion business. Already in 1948, he decided to arrange licensed production of furs, socks, ties, perfumes, and clothing in regionally seperate production centers. Thus spreading the brand name quickly around the globe.

In 1953, he hired Yves Saint Laurent as an assistant. After Dior"s sudden death in October 1957 in Italy, Saint Laurent became head designer and introduced the trapeze dress in his first collection for the house. When Saint Laurent was called for military duty in 1960, Marc Bohan took over, remaining until Gianfranco Ferre became designer in 1989. Ferre is to be replaced by the end of 1996.

After much talk about possible successors of Ferre, it has been confirmed in October 1996, that John Galliano will take his place as chief designer for Dior. Galliano, known as the current enfant terrible of the fashion business was responsible for Givenchy for two seasons before switching to Dior. It is believed that Dior"s parent company LVMH wants rejuvenate Dior"s appearence, hoping it will create an equally astonishing run on Dior products like Tom Ford created for Gucci. Indeed, Galliano"s appraoch to fashion resembles Dior"s intention when he started in 1947. In contrast to Chanel for example, Dior established a romantic and very feminine look, which emphasised luxury rather than comfort. Galliano, as Dior"s successor, creates an equally feminine style, blending today"s freedom of expression with the reminiscence of past opulence.

Dior is a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret a Porter.

Selected Lines
Haute Couture, since 1947
Haute Fourrier (furs)
Christian Dior Boutique (deluxe)
Christian Dior Boutique Fourrier (furs)
Christian Dior Coordinee (diffusion), discontinued in 1994

Selected Awards
Neiman Marcus Award (1947)
Parsons Medal for Distinguished Achievement (1956)

Since 1990, the Christian Dior S.A. belongs to Europe"s biggest luxury products manufacturer, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), which is owned and operated by Bernand Arnault through the investment company Financiere Agache. The company is listed at the Paris stock exchange. The Christian Dior S.A. itself holds 42% of the LVMH assets and is the holding company for the fashion brands Christian Dior Couture, Kenzo, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, and Louis Vuitton. The group achieved in in 1996 sales worth of 32.35 billion Francs ($6.33 billion).

Direct sales of Dior clothes (including licences) climbed in 1994 to $193 million. In 1996, the Christian Dior Couture division achieved a turnover of 1.2 billion Francs ($235 million). Including Dior perfumes, 85% of the sales are achieved in export, with Asia on top of export sales. LVMH"s move to employ Galliano and Alexander McQueen as the new star designers is said to be partly a reaction to the slumping perfumes sales of the LVMH"s fragrance business (Dior, Kenzo, Givenchy fragrances). In the first half of 1996, LVMH achived only 70 million Francs ($13.7 million) compared to 380 million Francs ($74.3 million) in the previous period.

Currently, Dior operates 160 boutiques worldwide, 15 of them in Japan. Clothing is exclusively sold in the Dior stores. Other retailers only carry licensed Dior products like eye wear, lingerie, ties, Bady Dior clothing, perfumes, and other accessories. Since LVMH acquired in 1997 the Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) group of stores, which are mostly located in Asia, the Dior distribution has been expanded to the 165 DFS outlets.

Since 1993, Francois Baufume has been head of all fashion activities of Dior.

Currently, Dior is reducing the number of its licenses which reached over 300 in the early "90s and also his franchise arrangements, in order to regain control over Dior products.

Several marketing surveys have shown that Dior is the most widely recognized brand in top fashion to date.

Christian Dior is a wolf in very tight fitting clothing due to its 42% controlling stake in luxury goods giant LVMH. Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault and family control Christian Dior.

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By Courtney Lynne
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