Dior, Designer of Dreams exhibition, Paris 2017-18
Many months have passed since my last blog post, but a visit to “Dior: Designer of Dreams” in Paris at the end of 2017 inspired me to start writing again for 2018. There are rumours that the show will go to New York …. let’s hope that’s true!
Long queues have been snaking along the rue de Rivoli in Paris for weeks as visitors wait patiently, often in pouring rain, for their chance to see the exhibition “Dior: Designer of Dreams.” Boy-oh-boy is it worth the wait! Like “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”, the retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015, it’s one of those spectacular blockbuster shows that takes your breath away and stays with you forever.
The exhibition celebrates 70 years of the revered fashion giant since its first collection in Spring/Summer 1947 when the iconic “New Look” was launched with its wasp-waisted, full-skirted hourglass silhouette. With some 300 outfits and about 1000 accessories spread over 32,000 square feet, we are taken on a magical trip. It starts with the early days of Christian Dior, including his years as a gallery owner, charts his transformation into one of the most famous French couturiers and presents too the work of the designers that followed him at the House of Dior: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and now Maria Grazia Chiuri.
In a long rainbow “Colourama” in the first part of show, hundreds of objects are grouped together in showcases by colour, flowing from pink through red, orange, yellow, green, blue and more and including less usual hues such as myosotis. Miniature replicas of famous dresses are displayed here alongside life-size outfits, shoes, hats, bags, jewellery and perfume bottles – there’s so much to see that you could spend hours visiting nothing but this part of the exhibition.
The “Colourama” is followed by sections devoted to the creator’s love of the 18th century and of gardening and flowers and the ways in which his successors have continued to interpret his passions. Paintings complement the exhibits throughout and in the flower galleries a stunning canopy of hundreds of white laser-cut paper leaves, tendrils and tiny flowers cascades down from the ceilings.
Here particularly the embroidery is breathtaking and it’s such a treat to be able to get (relatively) close to work seen and admired in photos, such as one of my favourites: this dress embroidered with feathers like a painting, designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri.
The second part of the exhibition is housed in the larger galleries of the Museum and makes full use of the spaces’ height. In one room with a mirrored ceiling, row upon row of the original white toiles (the prototypes of dresses made before they are cut in the final fabric) ascend, seemingly into infinity. The grand finale of the exhibition, however, is in the great hall, named “Dior’s Ballroom.” Visitors wander among full-sized models wearing dresses that fill its length and wonder at these and others that continue up to its ceiling at the gallery’s ends. It is home to a light show so, every few minutes, the architecture is progressively highlighted and a starry scene is projected onto the ceiling. Haunting music accompanies the ‘show’ and as its volume increases, that of the spectators drops to hushed whispers: all are mesmerised by the phantasmagoric scene unfolding around them.
Images from top (photos taken in exhibition by Ruth Eaton): John Galliano, Painted organza dress, F/W 2010 and Raf Simons, Embroidered silk dress, F/W 2015 (Paris, Dior Heritage Collection)/ ‘Colourama’ in the exhibition: grey section / ‘Colourama’: pink section / Raf Simons, 18th-century-inspired coat in silk embroidered with Swarovski crystals, F/W 2014 (Paris, Dior Heritage Collection) / View of the flower galleries with 4 dresses / Marc Bohan, Organdy short evening dress, Slim Look collection, S/S 1961 (Paris, Dior Heritage Collection) and Christian Dior, Organza evening gown embroidered by Rebe, Tulipe line, S/S 1953 (Paris, Musee des Arts decoratifs, UFAC Collection) / Maria Grazia Chiuri, Long tulle bustier dress embroidered with feathers (Detail), S/S 2017 (Paris, Dior Heritage Collection) / John Galliano, Wool embroidered tulle dress, F/W 2005, (Paris, Dior Heritage Collection).