When Dior died suddenly at age 52 in 1957, he left behind an identity that allowed the company and its predecessors to thrive. Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano and Raf Simons successively held the position of artistic director, then Chiuri in 2016.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize how focused and business-oriented he was,” Starkman says of the late designer. “If it hadn’t been like that, there probably wouldn’t have been a Dior house 75 years later, you know?”
By the time LVMH boss Bernard Arnault bought Dior in 1984, the brand had expanded to include ready-to-wear, menswear and childrenswear, as well as a cosmetics line. One of Arnault’s first major undertakings was to organize a retrospective of the house at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris to mark the brand’s 40th anniversary in 1987. A small team was assembled to locate the clothes and documents from the exhibition, and soon after, the archives department was established. . Pfaff took over the department in 1996. “I arrived there three weeks before Galliano,” she says. “I learned with him; we learned together.
Pfaff and his team are exploring various avenues to locate archival material. Many are found and purchased at auction or acquired from museums. Some, like the Junon dress from Dior’s 1949-1950 fall-winter collection, were obtained by referencing the designer’s numerous client files and by contacting these families. “This dress, we bought it from [the family of] a woman named Mrs. Newman from Florida,” Pfaff says. “She died very young and her husband organized an auction with all the clothes she bought at Dior, as well as accessories. Of course, we bought everything.
“It really is madness which led us to come up with this,” Beccari says of La Galerie Dior, which the house designed in 2018. His goal, he explains, was to “create a fantastic point of uniqueness for the Dior brand in Paris”, something that could not be reproduced. “It took courage to go to Monsieur Arnault,” he notes of the project, which forced Dior to close the flagship store, offices and workshop occupying 30 Montaigne for more than two years. The brand called on its long-time collaborator Peter Marino for the architecture. Nathalie Crinière, who designed several past Dior exhibitions, planted the different scenes.
“What’s incredible is that the Dior story started here,” says Crinière, echoing a sentiment shared by colleagues that the museum couldn’t be built anywhere else.
The exhibit opens with a spiral staircase rising in front of a three-story glass enclosure that displays a rainbow of more than 1,800 3D-printed miniature Dior pieces. “The idea was to climb without getting bored,” explains Crinière. “With this great colorama, people are surprised and understand that they are heading for something very special.” The origins of the luxury house of Dior are shown elsewhere through original sketches, early press clippings and the fabric swatch charts Dior used to plan its collections.
Past and present intertwine in several rooms. Two, filled with floral-patterned dresses designed by various creative directors, pay homage to Dior’s love of flowers. A recreation of the backstage area where models prepared for shows, which resembles a cabin, is visible through the glass floor. There are odes to the Miss Dior perfume and to the time when Dior was a gallery owner, when he exhibited works by Picasso, Man Ray and Dalí. Videos dedicated to each creative director loop in one space, and another highlights some of the house’s most famous garments: the gold lamé dress designed by Bohan that Lauren Hutton wore in the French film All fire all flames, the navy Galliano briefs that Princess Diana donned for the 1996 Met Gala, a playful nod to the scandal just after her divorce from Prince Charles. A space dedicated to Dior know-how welcomes duos from different departments of the workshop demonstrating their know-how in real time. “There are those really beautiful moments when [we] having an apprentice in her 20s and then next to her someone in her 60s who spent 40 years at Dior,” Starkman says. “The gallery welcomes more than a thousand visitors every day,” she adds. “You hear a lot of languages as you walk through the museum,” Starkman says. “Of course you’ll have fashionistas, fashion students – all the people you’d expect to have at a fashion show. But there’s also a much wider audience.
Like The Dior Gallery was under construction, the adjoining flagship store was redesigned to include two restaurants – a patisserie and Le Restaurant Monsieur Dior – three gardens and various other trappings, such as a dedicated haute couture salon and a towering rose sculpture of Isa Genzken.
“Every day we have people lining up outside the store,” Starkman says. “Not necessarily to walk in and buy something, but just for the experience.” Beccari compares it to “the anti-metaverse; you have to come here and feel those emotions,” he says. This manifested itself during a spring visit to the store. Outside, a line of home enthusiasts and curious tourists awaits entry behind a Dior-branded partition. Inside, a group of women worked on thread colors in a space dedicated to customizing shoes and bags. Upstairs, the guests lent themselves to Dior’s favorite recipes imagined by chef Jean Imbert. Everywhere, everyone was snapping photos — of the meticulously landscaped rooftop, cappuccinos topped with cinnamon-frozen Dior logos, and plenty of selfies.