THROWBACK THURSDAY: House of Dior: Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Bohan
Following the unexpected death of Christian Dior in 1957, the manager of Maison Dior, Jacques Rouet, considered closing the house permanently.
However, it was viewed as having too large a stake in the French fashion market and the idea was met with criticism. Rouet then appointed 21 year Yves Saint Laurent to Artistic Director. Saint Laurent had originally gotten his start after being hand picked by Christian Dior himself in 1955 for the position of Head Assistant (the only time this position existed).
For his first collection, he stuck to the original ideas and forms set forth by Christian Dior in the preceding seasons. Saint Laurent's designs were made from the same fabrics but were lighter, more comfortable, and easier to wear. The first collection was met with wide acclaim and many thought that Saint Laurent would continue the legacy of the legendary Christian Dior.
By 1960, Saint Laurent had developed a more bohemian style, epitomized by the Beat Look seen in the 1960 spring collection. He drew inspiration from the jazz clubs and cafes in the Saint-Germain des Près region of Paris. These designs were met with harsh criticism and in 1960, when the 24 year old designer was called up for military duty which would take him away from Maison Dior, management made no complaints.
Yves Saint Laurent was then replaced by Marc Bohan, who had previously worked for Christian Dior in London. Bohan drew inspiration from the 1920s and sought to create simple, elegant designs much like the early years of Maison Dior. Many viewed his initial collections and the revitalization of Christian Dior following the failure of Saint Laurent. Women's Wear Daily even stated that Marc Bohan "rescued the firm".
Following his first collection, Dior under the direction of Bohan expanded rapidly. Many celebrities ordered his dresses including Elizabeth Taylor. Haute Couture designs graced the likes of Princess Grace of Monaco and Lady Pamela Hicks for the royal wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
He also expanded the parfums line with the creation of "Diorling" and "Eau Sauvage." Bohan next moved to expand the business into new avenues including children's wear and men's clothing. In 1967, Bohan's assistant Philippe Guibourgé created the first Paris ready to wear collection (though this had existed in New York since 1948).
Business practices changed drastically during Bohan's tenure with Christian Dior. The parfums division was sold to the future LVMH group, separating it from the couture house. In 1978, Marcel Boussac's company went bankrupt and forced the sale of Christian Dior to the Willot group which subsequently went bankrupt in 1981. In 1984, business man Bernard Arnault purchased Christian Dior and drastically changed the business structure. In 1988, he took a 32% equity stake in LVMH and was able to reunite the parfums and couture divisions.
After 30 years with the house of Dior, Marc Bohan resigned in 1989 and was replaced with the first non-French Creative Director, Gianfranco Ferre. Look for next week's post to see how his new take on French fashion was recieved by the discerning fashion industry!