From Paris to the World opens at the Denver Art Museum

A look inside Dior: From Paris to the World at the Denver Art Museum


Explore 70 years of Maison Dior haute couture during this unique exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, open from November 19 to March 17.

Denver might not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking of high fashion, but maybe it should be. The Denver Art Museum maintains its reputation for must-see exhibitions with Dior: From Paris to the World, an unprecedented exhibition that explores 70 years of art and influence from French fashion house Christian Dior. More than 200 couture dresses, as well as accessories, jewelry, photographs and designs will be on display at DAM from November 19, the first Dior retrospective of this capacity to be presented in the United States.

(PHOTOS: Behind the scenes of Dior: From Paris to the World)

“The vision is to show the history of Dior, which is the first fashion house to envision the world as the new fashion planet”, explains Florence Müller, curator of the Avenir Foundation for Textile Art and Fashion at DAM. The exhibition was entirely curated by Müller, who browsed through hundreds of dresses and archival documents from the Dior Héritage collection in Paris to select the pieces to display. I haven’t done a count, but about 80% comes from the Dior Héritage collection, ”says Müller, with others from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chicago History Museum, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation , and the private collection of Hamish Bowles, the traveling international publisher of Vogue Magazine.

Christian Dior with models, circa 1955. Photo by André Gandner. Courtesy of Clémence Gandner

Born in 1905 in Granville, France, Christian Dior has always been an artist. He grew up in Paris at the center of haute couture. While he dreamed of becoming an architect, his father persuaded him to enroll in the Free School of Political Science to study political science in the hope of becoming a diplomat. With other projects in mind, Dior abandoned his studies and opened two art galleries, where he worked with famous artists like Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso. After a few years, the gallery was closed due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression. In 1938, Dior was hired by courtier Robert Piguet as a designer and was asked to help create three collections, catapulting his career as a fashion designer. Dior left his post at Piguet when he was called to serve in World War II.

Christian Dior, Barsuit. Afternoon set in shantung and pleated wool, Haute Couture Spring-Summer 1947, Corolle line. Dior Héritage collection, Paris. Photo © Laziz Hamani

In 1946, one year after the end of the war, Dior founded his fashion house. One of its first lines, Corolla, debuted on February 12, 1947. The “New Look,” as its approach was referred to by Carmel Snow, editor. Harper’s Bazaar, rejected the male figure associated with war and drew attention to a woman’s natural curves. Dior used considerable amounts of fabrics and detailed embroidery to create a refined feminine style.

Her designs, focused on accentuating the bust while shrinking the waist, amazed the global fashion audience and started a fashion revolution. “He was really the first to see fashion in this way,” says Müller.

Although Dior died in 1957, his legacy has been perpetuated through the creators of Maison Dior: Yves Saint Laurent (1958-1960), Marc Bohan (1961-1989), Gianfranco Ferré (1989-1996), John Galliano (1997-2011), Raf Simons (2012-2015) and Maria Grazia Chiuri (2016-present) — all of which are in the DAM collection.

To decide which pieces to show in the exhibition, Müller first had to write the story. As the collection tells a 70-year story, Müller has focused on selecting dresses and accessories that highlight Maison Dior’s historic moments, such as the satchel designed by John Galliano.

“There were a lot of saddlebags, but I ended up choosing the satchel with the ‘Dior’ logo on it,” says Müller. “Why? In the late 1990s there was a logo madness that was a significant moment in fashion history. According to Müller, the satchel, which is now making a comeback, and the logo tell two different stories but important in the history of Dior.

While dresses and couture gowns are the centerpiece of the exhibition, accessories such as hats, shoes, lipsticks and scarves are also on display, many for the first time. Some are displayed alongside the dresses to present what Müller calls “a total look”. This head-to-toe dressing was a tactic Christian Dior pursued in his career, according to Müller, and is therefore one of the themes of the extensive exhibition. “We have a very spectacular display of accessories that will play with color to show Christian Dior’s palette,” says Müller.

To complete the retrospective, the DAM commissioned the architect Shohei Shigematsu, partner and director of OMAfrom the New York office, to design the exhibition space. It was a dream come true for Müller, and it suited the designer the show celebrates. “Before becoming a couturier, Christian Dior had the ambition to become an architect,” explains Müller. “And he always said his way of looking at dresses was through an architect’s vision. I liked the idea of ​​an architect reproducing the style of a couturier who has a very architectural approach to the shape of dresses.

Shigematsu has masterfully used the space to create an immersive experience for visitors. The exhibit itself consists of 15 distinct sections, each organized thematically (for example, one area is representative of nature while another features dresses worn by famous women throughout history) or chronologically. (with works by each creator of Maison Dior). Reflective raw aluminum sets the backdrop for most displays, which is expertly curved to complement the feminine designs of the dresses. Finally, in the last room – the eponymous titled “From Paris to the World” – dozens of trendy dresses are exhibited on metallic “petals” of different heights, creating a serene and impressive spectacle.

While browsing the exhibition, visitors “will have the impression of being initiated into sewing,” Müller hopes. Although the DAM has presented clothing and jewelry from top designers in the past, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Cartier, Müller hopes the public will see this Dior retrospective as a decisive step in making the museum a must-see destination for the world of the fashion.

“This is the ambition of the museum,” says Müller. “A long time ago, when Christian Dior lived, fashion only arrived in Paris and was just starting in New York. Today, the fashion planet is huge, it’s happening [almost] all over.”

If you are going to: Dior: From Paris to the World will be on display in the Hamilton building of the Denver Art Museum from November 19 to March 17 *. Tickets can be purchased online, and advance reservations are recommended.

*This story originally listed March 3 as the closing date. The Denver Art Museum has extended the exhibition’s closing date by two weeks in a Press release.

Victoria Carodine

Victoria Carodine

Victoria Carodine is a Denver-based writer and former editor of the 5280 Digital Team.

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