"There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking." - Christian Dior, Designer and Icon. In February 2019, the 'V&A' will open the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever staged in the UK on the house of 'Dior'. ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ will trace the history and impact of the couturier and the six artistic directors who have succeeded him at his namesake brand and Dior’s relationship with Britain. This will be the museum’s biggest fashion exhibition since ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' in 2015. The ‘V&A’ team led by fashion and textiles curator Oriole Cullen and set designer Nathalie Crinière, will reimagine the major exhibition ‘Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve’ organised by the ‘Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ Paris, for the south-west London gallery space. ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ will trace the 71-year history of the ‘House of Dior’ beginning in 1947, when Christian Dior opened his couturier at 30 Avenue Montaigne, the site where it still stands today. This major exhibition will trace this beginning through to present day – via the display of over 500 objects – looking at the impact of Dior's 'New Look' (and how it has been reinterpreted again and again throughout Dior's history) as well as the house's relationship with travel, flowers, history and so much more. In addition to displaying some of the house's most iconic and memorable gowns, the exhibition will also highlight the breadth of creations that have come out of the fashion house over the years – and will pay tribute to those who have collaborated with ‘Dior'. This, entitled the 'Diorama' section, will showcase accessories from costume jewellery and hats to shoes, bags, archive lipstick and fragrance bottles. The exhibition ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ runs from February 2 – July 14, 2019 in the V&A’s Sainsbury Gallery. Tickets on sale now.
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“We have about 50 per cent new content and it is all haute couture. It’s quite phenomenal to think that every single garment in the show is handmade. Throughout the 70 years of the house, we see the high points and the amazing imagination of the designers at the helm. The garments themselves speak volumes, so this is very much a show that focuses on the fashion.” - Oriole Cullen, Textiles Curator for ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’. ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ includes a gown created for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday celebrations in 1951. The one-shoulder off-white tulle gown, decorated with asymmetric gold embroidery, was immortalised in Margaret’s official birthday portrait taken by Cecil Beaton. Items worn by high-profile clients including Nancy Mitford and the ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn will also be exhibited. The designer’s love of London landmarks such as Savile Row, where he bought his suits, and the ‘Savoy’ where he hosted his first show in the capital in 1952, will be celebrated, as will his many collaborations with British manufacturers including ‘Dents’ the glove-maker and ‘Lyle & Scott’ the knitwear brand. Each successive artistic director – Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri – and the sensibilities each has brought to the house are given equal weight within the exhibition as well as the beauty division that has thrived under each helmsman. Dior was always very interested in scent, it’s an important part of his story. The two have been interlinked since 1947 thanks to his childhood friend Serge Heftler-Louiche and his sister, Catherine, who worked closely on the perfume business with him. Though the curation of 500 objects and transformation of the ‘Sainsbury Gallery’ into the ‘Dior’ world has been quick in relation to the ‘V&A’s' usual time frame, the museum laid the foundations of ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ long ago. Another highlight will no doubt be the 'Designers for Dior' section which will spotlight the work of the six creative directors who have helmed the label since Christian Dior passed away in 1957.
“It’s a story that hasn't really been told before. It was a very formative moment, and something he really associates with freedom and falling in love. From the grandeur of the great houses and gardens and British-designed ocean liners to the food he ate, which, most found less than appealing in the '50s, the culture became an endless pool of inspiration for him. And he loved British women – the way they wore their tweeds as well as their ballgowns.” - Oriole Cullen, Textiles Curator for ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’. Within the 11 sections, which include ‘The New Look’ (a focus on Dior’s famed Bar suit) and ‘The Dior Line’ (the designer’s 10 defining looks from his 1947 and 1957 tenure at the house) will sit a new installation exploring the designer’s fascination with Britain. Princess Margaret, who paid his boutique a visit during her first European holiday in 1949, was one such woman Dior was “delighted” to count as a client. After he had shown his first collection at ‘The Savoy’ in 1950, he presented the looks to the Queen, Princess Margaret, Princess Marina and Princess Olga of Greece at the French embassy. Another piece that piqued the interest of Cullen was Dior’s lucky star – an old metal token the designer found outside the British embassy in Paris. Dior spotted it just when he was being approached to set up his own house, saw it as a sign and retained it as a lucky charm throughout his life. He was always very superstitious – he consulted a medium and believed in signs and symbols. The star has survived and it’s something that his successors have referenced. The exhibition ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ runs from February 2 – July 14, 2019 in the V&A’s Sainsbury Gallery. Tickets on sale now.
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