FROM PARIS WITH LOVE: Dior exhibit on display at Denver Art Museum until March 17

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Dior-From Paris to the World

DENVER | French fashion designer Christian Dior is often quoted as saying “after women, flowers are the most divine creations.”

But Dior was even more famous for his designs that brought the two together. That marriage is distinct in the Denver Art Museum’s current installation, “Dior: From Paris to the World.”

Dior — a successful gallerist who showed the work of Pablo Picasso, Matisse and Jean Cocteau in his former life — began sketching dresses to make money when the Great Depression bankrupted his family fortune. Fashion was never a plan for the political science student.

After World War II, Dior created the New Look collection. Dior’s early work quickly turned into one of the most influential fashion houses in the world. By the time a young Yves Saint Laurent took on directing the house in 1958, Dior was already responsible for half of France’s luxury exports.

The exhibit starts with Dior’s famed feminine designs that showcase the floral inspiration that can still be spotted in works by more recent creative directors of the brand, like eccentric British designer John Galliano, who served at the helm from 1997 until 2011.

Fashion and art historian Florence Müller organized and curated the exhibit on display until March 3. She came to the Denver Art Museum in 2015 as the Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion, but working with the museum on stylish installations is nothing new to the expert.

She first collaborated with the institution in 2012 for the “Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective” exhibit.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing ‘Soiree a Rio’ dress (Spring-Summer Haute Couture Collection)
1961 © 2013 Mark Shaw

Müller’s exhibit surveys 70 years of the House of Dior and features 200 haute couture pieces, including dresses, sketches, photographs and accessories, some exclusively on display in Denver and others that have never left Europe before now. Müller sourced pieces from around the world, but the bulk of the show comes from Dior Héritage collection.

Lingering in the exhibit is easy with a new eye-catching design every few steps, and even more impressive are the details of the tedious work showcased in Dior’s classic, structured dresses through the exhibit to a modern Spring 2018 couture collection piece from Maria Grazia Chiuri which took hundreds of hours to stitch.

“Artistic interpretation has always been a key factor to the House of Dior’s success in creating a global legacy for the French haute couture house,” said curator Müller in a statement. “Each one of the artistic directors has accomplished this during their tenure and through their visions. Visitors will witness this through thematic exhibition sections, and will also begin to understand how the Americas contributed to the success of the house over a seven decade period.”

The exhibit is organized chronologically — starting with Dior, then to Laurent, Marc Bohan, Grianfranco Ferré, Galliano, Raf Simons and then Grazia.

Galliano took trips to South America where, like on most of his excursions, he filled books with inspirations, photos and collages. While worlds apart from the brand’s original looks they still showcase qualities of femininity equated with Dior. Some of his books are on display at the museum alongside sketches from the “office of dreams,” where Dior created them.

Shohei Shigematsu, a partner at OMA, is responsible for the more subdued backdrops and muted design of the exhibit itself. Highly detailed garments are contrasted with corrugated and curved aluminum. Shigematsu told online fashion journal “Document” the Denver space was a challenge to design for, calling the Anschutz gallery “not very friendly,” with its angled walls and lack of defined rooms.

Nevertheless, the designer made room for the 200 pieces, which range from extravagant dresses to hand-painted scarves and iconic photos of Dior fashion. Sandwiched in between the modern aluminum is a breathtaking display of dress patterns and toiles, which highlight the skill and precision it took to execute Dior’s designs.