Fashion designer Christian Dior began his fashion career by selling sketches of hats to Parisians in 1935. He drew dresses too, but initially his hats were more in demand. Dior worked hard on his dress designs, though, and three years later he was employed by Robert Piguet.
At the onset of war, Dior went to fight in the south of France. Returning to Paris in 1941, he worked in Lucien Lelong’s fashion house.
With the war over and the world looking for something new, Dior established his own house in 1946, backed by the textile manufacturer Marcel Boussac. For his first collection, Dior created the New Look for which his fashion house became renowned. Its feminine elegance, with delicate shoulders, tight waist and full skirt, was inspired by the spirit of Parisian women. The opulence of his designs contrasted with the grim post-war reality of Europe, and helped re-establish Paris as the joyful fashion capital it had once been.
In the 11 years before his death, Dior dictated European style. Each of his collections had a theme – the classic suit, the ballerina skirt and the H, A and Y lines that ruled the early 1950’s.
Dior was first to arrange licensed production of his designs. Furs, stockings, ties and perfume were manufactured in regional centres across the world, spreading his brand name quickly about the globe. When he died suddenly in Italy, in 1957, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior’s assistant of four years, took over as head designer.