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Christian Dior (January 21, 1905-October 24, 1957), born in Granville, was an influential French fashion designer.
Dior is a graduate of Paris Institute of Political Studies (better known as Sciences Po), after which he established his main house of couture in Paris in 1946. He had the backing of a textile magnate Marcel Boussac. In twelve years he expanded his business to 15 countries and employed over 2,000 people.
Dior is known mainly for the 1947 "New Look" which employed narrow shoulders, constricted waist, emphasized bust, and long, wide skirt. His designs represented consistent classic elegance, stressing the feminine look. The New Look revolutionized women's dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world. Dior spread his fashions around the world when he and his partner, Jaques Rouet, started franchises in the fashion industry. In 1953 Yves Saint-Laurent became his assistant and was destined to be his successor but was reluctantly forced to leave when the time came for his military service. On returning, after trouble with his temporary replacement Marc Bohan, he soon opened his own maison de couture once his obligations were over.
He was continually feuding with his elder brother Raymond Dior and one of his earliest childhood memories was that Raymond would always lock him down in the dark cellar beneath the house in Granville whenever he had the opportunity, then go scouring the garden searching for critters to push under the door. Once he had made his fortune he attempted to rebuy the house where he was born but the new owner (Granville town council) rejected his offers. He refused to set foot in the town of Granville for the rest of his life. However, when Jean Cocteau bought the small chateau at Milly la Forét (Essonne) and Christian Dior shortly afterwards bought a disused water-mill in the same village, he persuaded his brother Raymond to buy a fermette in the village of Noisy sur Ecole (Seine et Marne) only 4km away. On the rare occasions when they found themselves together it usually ended in dispute with Raymond calling his brother "filthy queer" while Christian replied with "impotent drunk."
Towards the end Christian was living a hectic life with injections to wake up in the morning, injections for his appetite, and further injections to sleep. His niece, Françoise Dior, was once his favorite (at her marriage with Count Robert-Henri de Caumont la Force it was Christian Dior who gave the bride away at the ceremony while Raymond sat drinking the time away in a local bar) but held Nazi sympathies, openly blamed his Jewish manageress who procured his medications along with a collection of young men, of being part of a Jewish plot forcing him towards his death. For once Raymond agreed with his rebel daughter, discounting the Jewish plot theory. Normally under French inheritance law, having no children or parents, Raymond should have been his logical successor but the rift provoked by Françoise caused him to disinherit his close family totally.
The plump Dior, who suffered from heart trouble, reportedly died of a heart attack while undergoing a weight-loss cure at the spa in Montecatini, Italy, in an effort to make himself more desirable to his young North African lover, singer Jacques Benita; the death reportedly occurred in the lobby of the Hotel Pace after an after-dinner canasta game. "Alexis: The Memoirs of the Baron de Red", the 2005 memoirs of Paris socialite Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Red, however, suggest that the fashion designer actually died of a heart attack after a too strenuous evening spent with two young men.
Although his death made N1 in all the French press it was immediately forgotten, overshadowed by the launching of the first Soviet sputnik three days later.
At the time of his death, Dior salons had been opened in 24 countries. The Dior firm'successively led by designers Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, and John Galliano continued to be a fashion leader and was associated with a much wider range of merchandise, including menswear and household linens.
Learn more from the Christian Dior web site.
Designer Definition (from U.S Department of Labor)