Exhibition at Dior family home

16th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

GRANVILLE, France, May 16, 2007 (AFP) - Christian Dior, who transformed the face of fashion with the New Look, and his protege Yves Saint Laurent, were pivotal figures in 20th century fashion.

GRANVILLE, France, May 16, 2007 (AFP) - Christian Dior, who transformed the face of fashion with the New Look, and his protege Yves Saint Laurent, were pivotal figures in 20th century fashion.

John Galliano, the current incumbent at the house Dior founded 60 years ago, is on course to be as influential in the 21st. So to see the work of all three under one roof is a treat for any fashion lover.

An exhibition in the house where Dior was born in Granville, on the Normandy coast, gives a unique opportunity to compare how his successors have interpreted and carried on the master's legacy.

The villa perched on a clifftop with magnificent views of the sweep of the coastline and the Channel Islands, was acquired by the town council when his father, a rich industrialist, went bankrupt in the 1930s crash.

From being used as government offices and a public park, 10 years ago it was turned into a museum dedicated to the town's most famous son.

The exhibition is arranged according to colours, which were of primary importance to Dior. He told an American women's magazine he could "write a whole book about black".

In each showcase there are one or more examples by any of the five designers spanning the six decades -- the other two are Marc Bohan, who worked under Dior, and the Italian Gianfranco Ferre, who passed on the baton to Galliano 10 years ago.

Intriguingly, it is far from easy to guess who designed what: something which you could swear was vintage Dior may turn out to be from Galliano's latest collection, or a piece which looks contemporary to be the work of Bohan more than 30 years ago.

Galliano is known for delving into the archives. In his very first collection for Dior he named a lilac tulle ball gown "Mitzah" and used the same shade in the silk linings in homage to Dior's muse Mitzah Bricard, one of the most elegant socialites in Paris, whose favourite colour it was.

Madame Bricard always wore a leopardskin print scarf round her neck to hide a scar, relates Barbara Gouffroy, one of the exhibition's organisers. Dior specially commissioned from the Lyons silk firm Bianchini Ferier a leopardskin print for a trenchcoat in 1955.

"It didn't sell well at first, but a year later Marlene Dietrich bought one and then everyone had to have one," says Gouffroy. Just like today, celebrity endorsements are good for sales.

Another exhibit with a story behind it is a navy blue day dress spangled with tiny stars, which Dior, who always named his dresses, called "Lucky Star". When he was on his way to meet his financier Marcel Boussac on April 18, 1946 he saw something glinting on the pavement and picked it up. It was a metallic star off a horseshoe. Boussac stumped up the money and Dior attached the star to a ribbon and kept it as a good luck charm on his desk.

Ribbons and bows were a Dior favourite. Ferre paid homage in his first collection for Dior with a dress with a giant bow on one shoulder in the signature black and white dogstooth check of the house perfume packaging.

White was Dior's preference for grand evening gowns and the lily of the valley his fetish flower. Both are brought together on a delicate ball skirt festooned with faux lilies of the valley, which he had specially embroidered, specifying that he wanted to recreate the "trembling" of the individual bells.

Pink and grey reminded Dior of the colour of the family villa and its gravel path. One of the highlights is a glorious ballgown from Galliano's spring-summer 2007 collection in shades of pink and grey with an embroidered bodice and skirt falling into handkerchief folds.

The lighting has been cleverly contrived to allow a true appreciation of the colours, unlike the usual gloom demanded by conservationists. Nevertheless, after being on show for four months, the clothes will be given "a long rest" and not be displayed again for some years.

As well as accessories, there are original paintings by the brilliant illustrator Rene Gruau to advertise the house perfumes. For Diorama, it is a length of black tulle tossed over a pink-covered chair with a pair of white elbow-length gloves, the epitome of elegance.

Outside, the grounds have been restored to what they would have been in Dior's childhood, complete with rose garden full of heavily scented old-fashioned varieties, an early inspiration for the creation of the house's fragrances.

The exhibition at the Christian Dior museum and garden at Villa "les Rhumbs" in Granville is open until September 23, every day from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm. Entrance five euros. More information on: www.museechristiandior@wanadoo.fr

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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