Note* This piece is brought to you by Shaye Windsor, who’s outfit was complimented by Dior COO and Dior Homme President, Surg Brunschwig. Now, I’m not saying that means I’m well versed in fashion, but it feels implied.
I was dressed in all black and a beret when I entered the National Gallery of Victoria’s exclusive The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture expecting some awe-inspiring fashion. However, it wasn’t that simple.
The exhibition transports you into the world of fashion. It surrounds you with impeccable beading, intricate embroidery and distinct silhouettes. The show is huge in scale and production. This is the first time the NGV has featured a mezzanine level in an exhibition, and the sweeping staircase emanates 30 Avenue Montaigne, Dior‘s Paris headquarters.
However, walking through the Dior exhibition isn’t just looking at pretty dresses. One picks up on a very clear message – the power of femininity.
The mannequins which display the marvels craftsmanship that is a Dior creation tower above viewers. Elongated bodies with imposing headpieces are encased in garments of such beauty and artisanship they act almost as an armour. They are untouchable, even godlike.
In 1948 the House of Dior trekked to Australia to present the ’47 autumn−winter haute couture collection, the last designed by Monsieur Dior. 50 pieces along with the house models of the day paraded the garments for David Jones in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.
Now, Dior is back, this time with 140 creations dating back to Christian Dior’s final 1947 collection.
Svetlana Lloyd, an original house model (or mannequin as they were known), was there for the 1947 trip and is back for the exhibition.
Standing next to one of the black cocktail gowns, she modelled she reminisced on her coming to Australia.
“It was such an opportunity but also a great journey. We all had the wax from our ears removed because they were afraid something might happen in the plane for that long,” said Lloyd.
The exhibition also explores the brand today, with pieces from the most recent collection shown by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman at the helm of the brand in it’s 70 year history.
With her platinum bob slicked back and striking black eyeliner Chiuri appeared on the screens above the crowd. Adorning a black suit, she sat boldly amongst the all white Dior atelier. Poised and powerful, she spoke of the importance of feminism.
“Feminism is important to my life, so feminism is expressed in my work,”
“Dior has always explored femininity and to be feminine today has changed. Fashion gives the opportunity for women to present their individuality,” she said.
Not only can viewers see the breath taking couture, they can gain an insight into how the pieces are made. Two petites mains from the the atelier will appear at the exhibition during it’s first and the final weeks.
They are creating one jacket which takes 140 hours of work, a short amount of time they say, when compared to the 700 hours it can take to create a gown.
Another Parisian visitor to the preview was Surg Brunschwig, COO and president of the houses mens faction. Speaking to the audience he told of the three year lead up to the exhibition. He added the reverence for the 70th anniversary exhibition is “deeply moving.”
Speaking with him amongst some of the houses finest gowns, including one wedding gown on loan from model Miranda Kerr, Brunschwig spoke of their relationship with Australia.
“It’s built on friendship, the exhibition is the result of friendship and hard work, and with that the relationship will continue.”
“It’s interpretative art. You may see a piece you would love to wear or you may think its horrible, but, undeniably you will see beauty in every creation here,” he continued.
“At this level it is not art, it is not fashion, it’s pure, timeless beauty.”
The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture will be at NGV International, from 27 August to 7 November 2017.