© Olivia Hoffman
Upon entering the mythical hôtel particulier at 11 rue François 1er that Monsieur Christian Dior fell in love with back in 1947, you understand instantly just why the Dior brand is so legendary.
Newly renovated, the walls that saw the invention of numerous iconic moments beginning with the revolutionary “New Look” now opens its doors to the public to showcase the immortal emblems of Dior. From each of the Artistic Directors that succeeded Christian Dior, visitors see how each of them honored and reinterpreted the House’s myriad of themes, silhouettes, and symbols.
“La Galerie Dior, a testament to the visionary audacity of Christian Dior and his successors: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.”
“The iconic New Look … embodies the attitude of a woman who asserts her femininity. Radiant, confident, and aware of her powers of seduction in that post-war period of reconstruction.” – La Galerie Dior
The exhibit starts with the dress that started it all: the Dior Bar Suit which was the shining star of Christian’s very first collection. His designs from this show – with their cinched-in waists and swooshing long skirts – launched the designer into a worldwide sensation as these ensembles became dubbed the “New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar.
After walking through an informational display of the designer’s personal history it becomes distinctly clear that Christian Dior’s designs were completely influenced from facets of his own life. His passion for tending flowers with his mother, childhood memories of soft colors around the home, and a lucky star he found on the ground outside the brand’s future birthplace would all become just a few of the motifs seen throughout his creations and subsequently, the creations of his successors.
The “Enchanted Garden” that follows the entrance demonstrates this phenomenon beautifully. Positioned alongside original dresses from the 40s and 50s are dresses with floral aesthetics by each of the Artistic Directors from Yves Saint Laurent to today’s AD Maria Grazia Chiuri. Exiting the garden room, a bright presentation shows examples of dresses with Dior’s floral favorites – lily of the valley, roses, and tulips – seemingly sprouting out of the garden of his childhood home.
“When the house Christian Dior first opened, it had three Ateliers under the eaves of 30 Avenue Montaigne, a tiny studio, a salon in which to show the dresses, a cabine or dressing room for the models, an office and six small fitting rooms.” – Monsieur Dior in his memoirs
We are then introduced to an exact replica of Christian Dior’s original office and an astounding reproduction of the atelier and fitting rooms seen below a glass floor. After walking through a display of the original prêt-a-porter Miss Dior collection from the 1960s and a feature of some of the fine art nods in the Men’s collection, our eyes must adjust to the whitewashed atelier studio. Featuring the white toiles (canvas dresses) that serve as the starting point of what eventually becomes an Haute Couture gown, visitors are then treated to a live interaction with an artisan creating their magic right in the middle of the studio!
The rest of the exhibit elegantly displays scores of Dior gowns and accessories created under the artistic directors over the years, organized by categories of inspiration. One particularly breathtaking room is “Le Bal Dior” which showcases some of the brand’s most glamorous gowns in a tiered grand podium where the background runs an animated illumination that changes from a starry night to a golden glitter shower to a dreamy cloudy sky.
“La Galerie Dior reflects the singularity of this House, which, more than any other, is aware of the richness of its past. Every one of its Artistic Directors has continuously drawn inspiration from it, enabling them to express the spirit of their time and unveil a new vision of the Dior dream.” – La Galerie Dior
The final rooms are dedicated to the brand’s world-renowned perfumes and reveal the inspiration behind the classics such as Miss Dior and J’Adore. Now that all of the senses have been ignited, it is easy to be lured into the Café Dior that follows the end of the exhibition space tempting guests with a refreshing drink and refueling bite.
As with any Dior runway, the show must end with a bang – and La Galerie does just that. To exit the Dior house of wonder, visitors must descend the winding white staircase encased in a glass display featuring a cascading rainbow of miniature Dior gowns, bags, and accessories. This grand finale experience is wildly mesmerizing and, for just a moment, makes you feel as if you are one of the iconic Dior muses gliding down the steps of the legendary maison.
If you are in Paris or you are planning a trip soon, be sure not to miss La Galerie Dior for a historical and charming experience of one of France’s most emblematic couture brands.
Reservation is recommended. You can book your ticket in advance here.