PYLOT spoke with Amy Thornett, curator of the exhibition, about the relevance of doing an exhibition such as this, at a time like now.
The V&A is currently holding one of the biggest fashion exhibitions the U.K. has ever seen with Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. Coinciding with this and London Fashion Week was the ideal time to make the most of a city heaving with international fashion enthusiasts.
Dior remains one of the biggest luxury houses in the world, with its current Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, making some significant changes to the brand including her bold statement tees emblazoned with feminist slogans. I also love the fact that she has enlisted her daughter, Rachele Regini, to keep her up to date on what not to say or convey in this current climate. With the progression of the House in mind, it feels like an appropriate time to look back at Dior’s inception and its early creative directors.
Are there any particular narratives which you feel link the various image-makers together in terms of the way they communicate the Dior brand?
I wouldn’t say there’s one overarching theme that unites all the images outside of the Dior narrative. Rather we are more interested in highlighting each photographer’s approach to capturing Dior’s legendary designs. Each photographer in the exhibition communicates the polished essence of early Dior. These fashion photographers were considered some of the biggest of their time, and by displaying editorial and behind-the-scenes shots I hope to show the incredible access they were allowed, while also offering a glimpse into both the photographic and intricate design processes.
The Dior Collection doesn’t reflect the lifespan of Dior, rather it looks back at the early years of the fashion house and with it the first three creative directors. Instead of picturing the entire history of Dior we offer a snapshot, highlighting the brand’s unique formative years through the works of leading fashion photographers from the 20th Century including Horst P. Horst, Norman Parkinson, Jerry Schatzberg, Mark Shaw, and Bert Stern. I was eager to work with these specific photographers and since I have a keen interest in 20th Century fashion photography, I wanted to marry the two. By revisiting the roots of this exceptional brand, The Dior Collection aims to showcase the style, innovation, and creativity developed by the legendary House of Christian Dior.
How does the editorial imagery included in the show reflect the momentous first collection Corrolle and its reaction against fabric rationing?
Christian Dior relished the opportunity to step away from the silhouettes of wartime styles, calling them “hideous and repellent”. His fresh, new designs presented in Corolle became synonymous with the feminine and voluptuous. The show made the cover of Life magazine and was dubbed “The New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar, who described the designs as “a curving, opulent day silhouette that is the most elegant fashion for decades”. An example of this new look can be seen in a behind-the-scenes shot of a model in lace by Mark Shaw. The shoulder-skimming gown for Christian Dior’s Spring 1953 collection cemented the “waist” as the central focus for the designer with the dress curving in at the waist and flaring out into an hourglass shape.
I was interested in curating the exhibition based on the garments, facial expressions and photographic strength of the image.
It was also important to consider the prominence of the photographers. Having the opportunity to work with the Horst. P. Horst archive, in particular, has been incredibly exciting. Horst is one of the most significant 20th Century fashion photographers in the U.K. and we’re thrilled to feature him in such a momentous exhibition.