Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Paris is always a good idea but even more so when there is the chance to see the works of Christian Dior in person. The Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at Musée Des Arts Décoratifs was the central focus to my last visit to Paris and I’m going to say it straight out; if you have any interest in fashion and art go and see this exhibition!

I’ll get some practical things out of the way. You need to be prepared. Be prepared for queues even if you have pre-booked your tickets. Be prepared for the cold while waiting in the queue and then be prepared for the heat inside the exhibition. Be prepared for security checks and not just one. You are allowed to take photographs in most of the exhibition so you guessed it, be prepared with all your equipment. Charge batteries and if you’re like me I bring chargers with me just in case. And the most important thing you need to be prepared for; the crowds. I cannot put into words the volume of people all wanting to do the same thing, get up close to some of the most precious pieces in fashion. It was at times difficult to see the pieces let alone take photographs but no one was going to hurry me along despite the efforts of other visitors and the odd zealous staff member. With all of that I did manage to take some photographs even thought I felt a little crazed at times trying to snap everything I saw. I hope what I did take gives you a bit of an insight into something so magical.

The thing that struck me most about the exhibition is how it was so well thought out. Florence Müller and Oilver Gabet, curators of the seven decade retrospective clearly examined every detail to ensure the narrative was so effortless in its execution despite the millions of people there. I was amazed at the number of pieces on display and how each of them contributed to the seamless journey from decade to decade and designer to designer, while paying respect to the differences, controversies, visions and legacys that each designer has contributed to the house of Dior.

Another thing that struck me during my some four hours at the exhibition was that despite seeing some of the pieces on display in magazines and runway shows, each designer sparked something in me and I felt it was the first time I was seeing them. They resembled nothing I thought I knew about their designs, colours and craftsmanship. I was mesmerised and at times conflicted by what was in front of me. Without fancy lighting, photographers, re-touching and all that goes with how these pieces are often presented to us, my appreciation had reached new levels. Yet the conflict, that rational voice in my head burst my hypnotised state to say ‘they are just clothes’, ‘think about how much they cost and what that money could be used for’. Granted this is a simplistic conflict and one that represents much more than ‘they are just clothes’ but it was there all the same.

I can’t credit Florence Müller and Oliver Gabet enough. To be able to see each decade and designer, like exhibitions within an exhibition gave a sense of the house of Dior as a whole. It was evident that the works by Christian Dior himself, his interest in art and photography, clearly lay the foundation for those that followed him. I studied each piece slightly differently than I do fashion shows and you all know how much I love them. When looking at each piece all I could think about was imagining myself in them and what a wild ride that was. Some designers and their creations reaffirmed my taste, my style and how I would make these pieces work today, decades on. Others also reaffirmed that some pieces don’t need to be revisited. John Galliano and the 1990s is really not for me. Surprisingly, the works that stood out the most were by Maria Grazia Chiuri. I have long admired her work at Valentino but since her move to Dior have been less convinced by her collections as a whole. However after seeing some of her pieces up close (so close that I almost set the alarms off) I feel seeing them on-screen or in print simply doesn’t do them justice.

It was such an experience to see these works in the flesh and even though they are just clothes, I would not hesitate to go again if I had the chance as I feel I probably only saw a quarter of the three hundred pieces on display.



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