A Belle Époque style house with pink walls, a cliffside sculpted by the sea, and English gardens that maybe even seemed like a labyrinth of colors and flowers through the eyes of his young eyes. This is the decor that inspired someone who needs no introduction: Christian Dior. From May 4th to September 22nd, the Villa les Rhumbs, childhood home of the designer and now the Christian Dior Museum, will present the exhibit “Impressions Dior” as part of the “Normandie Impressionisme” festival.
Imagined by Florence Müller, fashion historian and appraiser, the exhibit will open a sort of dialogue between the Maison Dior’s styles and Impressionist works, either originals or reproductions. Seventy dresses from Dior’s first collection in 1947 up until Raf Simons’ latest creations will be put out for all to see along with twelve paintings from masters like Degas, Renoir, and Monet.
“Telling the story of these dresses and their designer’s sources of inspiration is the goal of this exhibit,” explains Florence Müller. “Like these artists that invented plein air painting, Christian Dior had a profound love for nature. Before being a couturier, he loved flowers and gardens, including the one at Rhumbs in Granville where he spent his childhood. He transposed this into his dresses throughout his entire career.” Just like the Impressionists shook up late 19th-century art by depicting a fleeting impression of nature, Dior sought to imagine the silhouette of a fantasized woman-flower.
With his dreamy disposition, he who once dreamed of becoming an architect was able to pick out the elements from his childhood that would bring him to imagine the curves-filled line that served as the foundation of his brand: the New Look. Far from being a simple young girl in flowers, the Dior Woman had a waist marked by a skirt that sometimes resembled a flower’s corolla and sometimes was as straight as a stem. Inspired by the crinoline dresses worn by the women in Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, Dior and his successors never ceased to reinvent the lines of this woman-flower. Flowers are still part of the stylistic vocabulary of Raf Simons, heir to the Dior brand. Concerned about respecting its history, he revisited the mythic wardrobe of the Dior Woman by enveloping it in a modernity that doesn’t miss out on a bit of the poetry of his illustrious predecessor. The flower-stitched dress recently worn by Nicole Kidman by Canens is the proof.
At the Villa les Rhumbs, the tour logically progresses through the garden according to an olfactory route called “Impression des parfumeurs”. Specially created for the exhibit to create an understanding of the chief Impressionists’ sensitive interpretations, you might even start dreaming that the mythic perfume Miss Dior Chérie was born here, an olfactory ode to youth that has made the likes of Natale Portman see la vie en rose.Finally, while fashion is just as ephemeral as Monet’s poppies, Christian Dior has succeeded in making his creations enter into eternity, just like the works by these master Impressionists.