When Christian Dior held his first show outside of Paris, it wasn’t in New York or London but at David Jones in Sydney.
One year earlier, in 1947, the French designer had presented his first couture collection in Paris, forever changing the way women dress.
“It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian,” wrote Carmel Snow, the then-editor of American Harper’s Bazaar in 1947. “Your dresses have such a new look.”
With these words, Snow launched the New Look of soft-shouldered jackets worn with voluminous mid-calf skirts that transformed the austerity of the postwar fashion industry and marked the founding of one of the world’s greatest couture houses.
Less than 12 months later, Dior’s newest designs were on a plane to Sydney for the historic 1948 David Jones parade that marked the first full presentation of Dior garments outside of France.
The sold-out extravaganza showcased 50 Dior designs to rapturous response from press and high society, thanks to an exclusive deal brokered by Alice Shiell, David Jones’ fashion coordinator who travelled to Paris to meet with Dior and organise the parade.
“Alice Shiell had an extraordinary vision to ask for the ultimate prize, which was to secure for Australia the first full representation of Dior garments outside of Paris,” says National Gallery of Victoria senior curator of fashion and textiles Katie Somerville.
In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the House of Dior, the exhibition The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is on at the National Gallery of Victoria between 27 August and 7 November 2017. Over 140 garments from Christian Dior couture feature in the collaboration between the NGV and Dior, spanning creations from 1947 to 2017 by Christian Dior and the six successive designers following his death, including Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and the House’s current and first female head designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri.
“This exhibition will invite Australian and international audiences to discover some of the most significant couture designs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,” says NGV director Tony Ellwood. “It will be a celebration of Dior’s landmark moments and designs.”
Dior’s connection with Australia and David Jones is a prominent part of the exhibition, which also includes sections devoted to the early years of the house, its iconic codes and the famous atelier located at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris.
“The bonds uniting us for the past 70 years run deep and strong, testament to a mutual admiration,” says Christian Dior couture chief executive Sidney Toledano. “Christian Dior, who gave each of his designs names, baptised some ‘Melbourne’ or ‘Sydney’ and we have lost count of the number of looks called "Australie.”
David Jones is proud to be the principal partner of this remarkable fashion event and will celebrate its enduring relationship with the French luxury house with Dior pop-up stores in Elizabeth Street, Sydney and Bourke Street, Melbourne, showcasing the autumn winter 2017-2018 collection.
The Sydney pop-up collection will be open from 9 to 21 August 2017, followed by Melbourne from 25 August to 25 September 2017, with each celebrating Maria Grazia Chiuri’s third collection for Dior, inspired by the depth and emotion of the colour blue. Jackets, skirts, capes, coats and dresses are among the codes of the house that have been revisited with a more contemporary spirit and sporty attitude.
The collection also features exciting use of materials including taffeta, velvet and herringbone. To further emphasise the complexity of the colour blue, the Melbourne and Sydney stores will reinterpret the traditional white and grey Dior signatures of the brand’s 30 Avenue Montaigne headquarters with blue carpet, blue plexiglas and blue neon fixtures.
The Dior ready-to-wear pop-up offers the perfect opportunity to shop for an outfit to attend the glamorous NGV Gala, on 26 August, which celebrates the opening of The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture at the National Gallery of Victoria.
The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is on at the National Gallery of Victoria International from August 27 to November 7, 2017.
Words: Georgina Safe
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