Plus watch an exclusive interview with Maria Grazia Chiuri about the show
Unless you’re one of the lucky few invited to sit front row at the Paris shows, it’s unlikely you have the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with any Haute Couture on the regular (or, let’s face it, at all). That’s all set to change this weekend though, as London’s Victoria & Albert Museum throws open the doors to its latest exhibition – Dior: Designer of Dreams.
Spanning over 70 years worth of work, from the inception of Christian Dior’s eponymous label in 1947 right through to the present day, the show puts hundred of incredible items on display and delves deep into the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most important couturiers, as well as those that have contributed to keeping that legacy alive.
Having been given a sneak-preview of what lies in wait for those visiting Designer of Dreams earlier this week, here we break down exactly why you need to book your tickets and head to the V&A as soon as is humanly possible.
IT OFFERS A MOMENT OF ESCAPISM
“It’s a famine of beauty honey, my eyes are starving for beauty!” exclaimed André Leon Talley in 2009’s The September Issue, and, in the ten years that have followed, not much has changed. While moments of extraordinary beauty still occur on the runway from time to time (s/o Iris Van Herpen, Pierpaolo Picciolo, and Clare Waight Keller), streetwear has asserted its status as a fashion force majeure and shows no sign of relinquishing its grip on the industry. Not only does stepping into the V&A’s hallowed halls offer escape from the grey misery that is London in February, Dior: Designer of Dreams also invites visitors to turn back the clock to a time when nylon track tops and chunky dad-style sneakers hadn’t yet pervaded the fashion landscape, and enter a world where everything is meticulously considered, painstakingly handcrafted, and really (really!) fucking beautiful – just wait until you enter the flower-filled garden room.
IT GOES DEEP INTO CHRISTIAN DIOR’S LOVE OF BRITAIN
Designer of Dreams takes its cues from 2017’s Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve exhibition, which took place at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, only, this time around – given it takes place in London – there’s a real focus on the iconic French designer’s deep-rooted love for Britain. A self-confessed Anglophile, Dior was fascinated by British culture and made his admiration for the country well known: “There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture… I even love English cooking,” he once said. The Dior in Britain room is dedicated to exploring this relationship, displaying garments seen as part of salon shows which took place in lavish country houses and grand hotels including The Savoy. Also exhibited in pretty dramatic fashion is the enormous tulle gown he created for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday, as captured in Cecil Beaton’s iconic portrait.
IT’S NOT JUST CHRISTIAN’S WORK ON SHOW, THOUGH
Christian Dior’s tenure as the head of the House of Dior came to an abrupt end when he died of a heart attack in 1957 – just ten years after he founded his eponymous label. Following in his footsteps were Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, and Gianfranco Ferré, whose work and influence is celebrated throughout the exhibition: with Saint Laurent’s exotic, bohemian takes on the codes of Dior a particular highlight. Later, the exhibition moves through the 90s, 00s, and towards the current day, spotlighting John Galliano’s wild flamboyance, Raf Simons’ subtle modernity, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist focus, and examining the respective ways in which each designer left their mark on the Maison.
THERE ARE SOME TRULY AMAZING PIECES ON THE LINE-UP
...including 157 items which have never been put on show before. The New Look room puts Christian Dior’s 1947 Bar skirt suit on display, and looks at the ways in which subsequent designers have reinterpreted the iconic garment in the time since – it’s at this point you’ll see Simons’ clean, nipped-waist suits, as well as looks from Chiuri’s Surrealist-inspired SS18 Couture offering on show. Further through the exhibition, lavish, avant-garde pieces from some of Galliano’s most iconic collections stand shoulder to shoulder, with looks from his Egypt-inspired SS04 show and his regal AW04 presentation among them, while in the ballroom, a series of outstanding evening looks have been collated. It’s not just clothes you’ll see, though. Also on the line-up is a room – entitled Diorama – dedicated to archive perfume bottles, sparkling costume jewellery, exquisitely beaded shoes, and everything in-between. And towards the end of the exhibition is a series of magazines which feature Dior looks on their cover. Look hard enough and you might just find a couple you’re familiar with (okay fine: there will be plenty you recognise – but we were specifically referring to Dazed if you didn’t get the hint).
Dior: Designer of Dreams runs from February 2 – July 14 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Tickets are available here.