Dior: 70 Years of Haute Couture – Fashion Fairytale at NGV

Opening night world premiere exhibition The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture. NGV
Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 37, evening dress and Look 38, evening dress autumn - winter 2013–14 haute couture collection Photo © Patrick Demarchelier, Licensed by Art+Commerce Models: Anastasia Ivanova, Premier Model Management and Marte Mei van Haaster, Viva Paris

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 37, evening dress and Look 38, evening dress autumn – winter 2013–14 haute couture collection Photo © Patrick Demarchelier, Licensed by Art+Commerce Models: Anastasia Ivanova, Premier Model Management and Marte Mei van Haaster, Viva Paris

Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture a fabulous fairytale exhibition exclusive to Melbourne on show at the National Gallery of Victoria until November 7, 2017 is truly glamorous. It is a supreme fashion coup and the most “… ambitious presentation we have ever done” said NGV curator Katie Sommerville.

Installation photo NGV, photo Carolyn McDowall

Installation photo NGV, photo Carolyn McDowall

This visual feast of fashion first and foremost reveals the fabulous story associated with the Parisian couturier Christian Dior (1905-1957) and his now famous atelier House of Dior, as one of the world’s great dictators of true costume style.

Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

It truly represents ‘the dream of who you can be, not who you are’.*

Christian Dior Marvellous

Christian Dior models in the salon of House of Dior’s headquarters, 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris 1957. Photograph by Loomis Dean, featured in LIFE Magazine, 1957 © Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection/Licensed by Getty Images

Everywhere you look in this most outstanding display of historical costume yet seen in Australia the colour, the form and the at times overwhelming beauty, completely ravishes all the senses.

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Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

All around the people attending the media preview were animated and excited, talking at the top of their voices with sheer delight. It was easy for Belinda our Deputy Editor and I to buy into their enthusiasm.

Installation photo NGV, Miranda Kerr's wedding dress, photo Carolyn McDowall

Miranda Kerr’s wedding dress, Installation photo exhibition Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

Oooh, aaagh, Miranda Kerr’s wedding dress worn only a few months ago is there, as is the form fitting glamour gown worn by our own Aussie international actor Nicole Kidman at the Academy Awards in 1997, and so much more.

Opening night world premiere exhibition The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture. NGV

Nicole Kidman alongside her glamorous chartreuse sheath dress worn to the 1997 Oscars, Opening night world premiere exhibition The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture. NGV, 26 August, 2017, photo courtesy National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

An important aspect of the coup for the National Gallery of Victoria as if the exhibition wasn’t enough, was that on Saturday August 26 Australian actors including Nicole Kidman, would be among the many celebrities, sponsors and supporters attending the NGV Gala enjoying their own viewing of the show.

Daniel and Christine Andrews

Daniel Andrews and his wife Catherine at the NGV Gala, Saturday 26th August, 2017 photo by Jim Lee

The first event of its kind celebrating beauty and art and also perhaps being in the ‘world’s most liveable city’, Nicole Kidman kept company with Rachel Griffiths, Adam Goodes, Tina Arena, Rebecca Judd, Kate Ceberano, Sarah Ellen, Olympia Valance and the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews and his wife Catherine among others.

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Glamour and Glitz, Installation photo exhibition Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

We spent two and a half hours at the preview and hadn’t felt as if we had seen it all. It’s one of those shows you will go back to again if you can.

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Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

So few of us can afford a Dior dress, but we can all aspire to owning and wearing one, especially a ‘little black dress’ Melbourne’s favourite frock.

Installation at NGV photo Carolyn McDowall

Shades of a Parisian Atelier, Installation photo exhibition Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

A classically designed sweeping staircase as homage to the one at the Dior Atelier on the Avenue Montaigne in Paris, which excited models have traversed over the years has been constructed. It leads to a mezzanine level from where you can look down on some of the 140 garments, 50 bespoke headpieces, cases of sensational shoes and yet more.

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Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

Wrapped in classical panelling as befits a fabulous French fashion historical house for the fifties, the design and presentation of the show at NGV International is exceptional.

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Serge Brunschwig, Chief Operating Office of Christian Dior Couture, President of Dior Homme, photo by Belinda McDowall

Serge Brunschwig, Chief Operating Office of Christian Dior Couture, President of Dior Homme declared he was deeply moved at the reception he had received and admired the strength of cooperation he had enjoyed in telling the stories of the famous fashion house.

Christian Dior with fashion model Victoire wearing the "Zaire" dress (Autumn Winter Haute Couture collection, H line) 1954 © 2013 Mark Shaw

Christian Dior with fashion model Victoire wearing the “Zaire” dress (Autumn Winter Haute Couture collection, H line) 1954 © 2013 Mark Shaw

It was 1946 when Christian Dior a mature man who had embraced political science studies before working for years in the ‘art gallery industry’, was invited to manage a ‘flagging couture house’ owned by textile industrialist Marcel Boussac.

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Fashion mannequin Tania presents the Bar, afternoon ensemble, at the House of Dior’s first show, spring?summer in Paris, February 1947 Dior Heritage collection, Paris Photo: Pat English

Instead he asked Boussac to agree to fund a business that was his own. When his sponsor agreed, Dior began whipping up enthusiasm and anticipation of what was to come and by the time the first collection hit the catwalk, public feelings were running high and very intense.

Christian Dior at House of Dior's headquarters, 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris © Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

Christian Dior at House of Dior’s headquarters, 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris
© Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

Christian Dior employed some sixty staff when he opened in December 1946, including four women who became integral to his successful design process and the daily functioning of his new fashion house. They were Raymonde Zehnacker, director of the designers’ studio; Marguerite Carré, his technical director; Mitzah Bricard, his muse and head of the hat department; and childhood friend Suzanne Luling.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Christian Dior (designer)  Bar, afternoon ensemble spring?summer 1947 collection, modelled by Renée 1955 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Christian Dior (designer) Bar, afternoon ensemble
spring?summer 1947 collection,
modelled by Renée 1955
Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

This influential quartet oversaw the running of the salons and in-house mannequins (models) and supported superbly, Christian Dior presented his ‘New Look’ first to the world in 1947.

His designs celebrated a shapely lady and her captivating curves, accentuating her wasp waist by adding a full skirt and defining her rounded shoulders. Simple, elegant and stylish, he captured all hearts.

Dior Original Hat Black Dress

Christian Dior hat from the Raout silhouette, spring?summer 1956 haute couture collection, Flèche line © Henry Clarke, Musée Galliera. ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

Following years of restrictions during WWII, he restored the confidence and self esteem of women around the world by making them both feel and look all brand new.

He spurred a frenzied fury of home sewing that would last for decades. At the local Home Science High School where I was completing a ‘dressmaking’ course in the 50’s the House of Dior was certainly the role model for many entries to attain good marks.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Christian Dior (designer)  Eugenie dress, autumn?winter 1948 haute couture collection © Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Christian Dior (designer) Eugenie dress, autumn?winter 1948 haute couture collection
© Willy Maywald/ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

“Women, with their intuitive instinct, understood that I dreamed not only of making them more beautiful, but happier too” he said. And he was right, he put smiles on the faces of women everywhere.

Christian Dior draping fabric over fashion mannequin Sylvie c. 1948 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Christian Dior Photo: Bellini

Christian Dior draping fabric over fashion mannequin Sylvie c. 1948 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Christian Dior Photo: Bellini

During the single decade and the twenty two collections he presented while at the pinnacle of the fashion world (1947-1957), Christian Dior in many ways determined the standards by which artistic achievement in haute couture would be judged in the future.

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Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

He ensured the city of Paris struggling to rise from occupation during Word War II, confirmed its reputation as the worldwide capital of fashion. He helped kick start both the post war travel and fashion industries, boosting the French economy.

Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

Designed to visually narrate the rich history of the fashion house, the exhibition at NGV International also pays compliment to the unique affinity Dior has with Australia where our economy was affected too.

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Director National Gallery of Victoria, Tony Ellwood, speaking at media preview August 2017 Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

The current very happy CEO of David Jones today David Thomas was on hand for the opening preview where Director, NGV, Tony Ellwood announced …

“We are delighted that 68 years after the historic Dior fashion parade at its Sydney store, David Jones is once again helping Australia celebrate the House of Dior, as the exhibition’s Principal Partner,” he said.

Christian Dior mannequins arriving Australia for the autumn-winter 1957, haute couture collection, Christian Dior’s last collection, November 1957 Dior Heritage collection, Paris All rights reserved

Christian Dior mannequins arriving Australia for the autumn-winter 1957, haute couture collection, Christian Dior’s last collection, November 1957 Dior Heritage collection, Paris All rights reserved

It was 1957 when a fashion parade showcasing the ‘first representative Dior collection to be shown outside Paris’ was held at David Jones, Sydney and received enthusiastically. My Aunt, who used to work on the ‘Seventh Floor’ at the time, regaled the family with tales of it happening for years afterwards.

IMG_4556Svetlana Lloyd, the 81 year old Dior model who had modelled in this very special show had flown into Melbourne for the NGV Gala.

Talking to Director Tony Ellwood at the preview, she regaled the media and the crowd of supporters and sponsors with anecdotes from her time walking in the historic Dior fashion parade held at David Jones in Sydney in 1957.

Dior Milliner Stephen Jones, model Svetlana Lloyd and Director NGV Tony Ellwood at the NGV Gala, Saturday August 26, 2017

Dior Milliner Stephen Jones, model Svetlana Lloyd and Director NGV Tony Ellwood at the NGV Gala, Saturday August 26, 2017

Reunited with a ball gown she famously modelled for Mr Dior in the 1950s she said “I love the way it is exhibited. I’m seeing gowns from later Dior collections for the first time myself which is wonderful,” she said.

Inside the ateliers of the House of Dior, 2012 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Pol Baril

Inside the ateliers of the House of Dior, 2012 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Pol Baril

Minister for Creative Industries with the Victorian government Martin Foley commented “…the exhibition is another must-see that demonstrates why the NGV is Australia’s most popular gallery and one of the top 20 most visited across the globe.”

Christian Dior and fashion model Lucky c. 1956 © Christian Dior

Christian Dior and fashion model Lucky c. 1956 © Christian Dior

Christian Dior established a fashion design house that has continued to forge a place for itself on the world stage following his sudden death in 1957.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 47, evening dress 2012, autumn?winter 2012–13 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Dior

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 47, evening dress 2012, autumn?winter 2012–13 Dior Heritage collection, Paris © Dior

Six successive designers Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri picked up his mantle and forged forward creating frocks that create a frenzy at each fashionable launch.

While presenting their own point of view they have ensured that the ‘relevance and evolution in balance with tradition and heritage’ remains firm.

Dior 2017 collection

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Maria Grazia Chiuri (designer) spring?summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection © Dior

They have kept abreast of change, while paying homage and respect to Christian Dior and his vision along with the firm’s tradition of ‘taste’, which in all matters relating to the arts, is in many ways an unsatisfactory word.

However it does remain perhaps the only single word, which expresses an immutable quality of discernment, criticism and perception.

Stephen Jones 2017 Dior Heritage collection, Paris Photo © David Luraschi

Stephen Jones 2017 Dior Heritage collection, Paris Photo © David Luraschi

British milliner Stephen Jones continues to communicate the vision first established and he was on hand personally at the preview to talk about the working relationship he has enjoyed with the house over the past twenty years.

French footwear designer Roger Vivier (1907 – 1998) was the first such designer associated with the house 1953-1963, using embroidered fabrics and fabrics that were very abundant, he made sure his creations became synonymous with the house’s reputation for excellence.

Installation photo, fabulous Dior shoes, photo Carolyn McDowall

These boots are made for walking… fabulous shoes Installation photo exhibition Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

He would love the ‘rainboots’ from the latest collection I am sure.

Visiting duo artisans from Dior Atelier, Paris, installation photo Carolyn McDowall

Visiting duo artisans from Dior Atelier, Paris, installation photo Carolyn McDowall

A duo of artisans from the Christian Dior Couture atelier in Paris were on hand and will be working on couture garments in the exhibition space during the first and last weeks of the exhibition.

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A Stitch in Time, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

They were kept busy demonstrating the extraordinary technical skills of Christian Dior Couture and explaining how everything is finished by hand.

Dazzling Dior, installation photo Carolyn McDowall

Dazzling Dior, Installation photo exhibition Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Carolyn McDowall

The textiles used in so many ways are quite simply sublime.

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Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

Those made from silk whose history now spans over 4,500 years have exceeded the subliminal level, proving this magical textiles staying power. They retain its intrinsic characteristic; luminosity.

Luxurious textiles played an increasingly important role in decorative schemes and costume for centuries in Europe.

France played its part in encouraging the establishment of its weaving and silk industry.

From the seventeenth century they produced fabulous fabrics in a variety of colours and exquisite patterns, responding to changes in style and fashion.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Maria Grazia Chiuri (designer) Essence d’Herbier Ecru fringe cocktail dress, floral raffia and thread embroidery derived from a Monsieur Dior original (1900 hours of work) Hedgerow headdress in silk flowers and corn Haute Couture spring–summer 2017 Collection © Dior

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Maria Grazia Chiuri (designer) Essence d’Herbier Ecru fringe cocktail dress, floral raffia and thread embroidery derived from a Monsieur Dior original (1900 hours of work) Hedgerow headdress in silk flowers and corn Haute Couture spring–summer 2017 Collection © Dior

Some fabrics are totally unique, such as Maria Grazia Chirui’s Essence d’Herbier ecru fringed cocktail dress made from floral raffia and thread embroidery, worn with a hedgerow headdress in silk flowers and corn.

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Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

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Detail Needlework: Installation photo exhibition, Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture by Belinda McDowall

As the known borders of their world expanded, Europeans were able to draw on many different cultural sources for inspiration to embellish garments for personal, state and ceremonial use.

Needlework evolved to become a powerful transmitter of wealth and status, as well as a measure for the development of a society.

Essence d’Herbier is one of two Dior haute couture works, especially commissioned for and acquired by the NGV for their renowned costume collection of over 8,500 garments.

Look 10, a Bar coat from the autumn-winter 2012–13 collection designed by Raf Simons is the other.

Personally Dior loved the elegance and sheer beauty associated with the eighteenth century in France, admiring its architecture, decorative arts, fashionable styles and textiles and these are showcased in a myriad of glorious ways for you to discover.

There are many relevant events to take place throughout the exhibition, you need to log onto the website to expand your own knowledge and to choose those that appeal to your interests.

They are all sure to be heavily booked.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 47, evening dress 2012, autumn-winter 2012–13 Dior Heritage collection, Paris© Dior

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 47, evening dress 2012, autumn-winter 2012–13 Dior Heritage collection, Paris© Dior

NGV Friday Nights are very popular and from September 1 – November 4 (6-10 pm) live entertainment by a variety of Australian artists will add to your special experience.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Raf Simons (designer) autumn?winter 2012 haute couture collection Photo © Patrick Demarchelier/Licensed by Art+Commerce

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Raf Simons (designer) autumn?winter 2012 haute couture collection Photo © Patrick Demarchelier/Licensed by Art+Commerce

The sensational exhibition catalogue by curators Katie Somerville and Danielle Whitefield with fashion historian is a weighty tome, but an ideal gift for anyone to give the woman they love.

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 54, dress 2015, spring?summer 2015 spring-summer 2015 haute couture collection © Dior

Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house); Raf Simons (designer) Look 54, dress 2015, spring?summer 2015 spring-summer 2015 haute couture collection © Dior

The Christian Dior story is compelling… and perhaps the best thing about it is that the fairytale is still in the making.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

Dior: The House of Dior Seventy Years of Haute Couture

August 27 – November 7, 2017

NGV International
St Kilda Road, Melbourne

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PROGRAMS AND EVENTS

* British Milliner Stephen Jones

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