“I wanted to be considered a good craftsman. I wanted my dresses to be constructed like buildings, moulded to the curves of the female form, stylising its shape,” Monsieur Christian Dior once declared.
Without a doubt, his creations are phenomenal on their own, but arguably, what elevates them — and the wonderful works of his successors — to a different level is when a photographer’s reinterpretation comes into play. This extraordinary dual-perspective is the subject of Dior: New Looks. In it, author Jérôme Gautier, a journalist and specialist in fashion history and photography, uncovers how the Maison’s visual collaborators play the role of journalist in chronicling Dior’s evolution and influence on the fashion landscape. Over the years, this illustrious list of photographers have included the likes of Irving Penn, Guy Bourdin and Nick Knight whose images feature in the 304-page tome.
While this visual masterpiece casts light on Dior’s many collaborators, a second book focuses more closely on one legendary lensman’s relationship with the Maison.
Co-authored by journalist Justine Picardie and fashion historian Olivier Saillard, Dior by Avedon traces the relationship between Richard Avedon and the house of Dior, which began in 1947 — the year Christian Dior spearheaded the golden age of couture with the New Look, and the year fashion photography took shape with the then 24-year-old Avedon endowing Dior’s extravagant silhouettes with emotion and nuance in his evocative imagery.
While the 206-page tome spans 30 years, covering the stints of next-gen creative directors Yves Saint Laurent (1957-1960) and Marc Bohan (1960-1974), it is Avedon’s depiction of Christian Dior’s New Look that dominates the story — hardly a surprise given the public backlash at the time, which decried Dior’s lavishness in the midst of post-war austerity.
By putting these dresses on models out on the street, Avedon’s reimagining made the New Look accessible; though for Christian Dior himself, there was never a question of relevancy to begin with. “Everything that goes beyond the simple fact of food, clothing and shelter is a luxury,” he once wrote. “Our civilisation is a luxury and that is what we are defending.”