The Instant Expert: Christian Dior
The life and times of the French fashion designer and founder of one of the world’s top fashion houses
THE BASICS The French fashion designer and founder of one of the world’s top fashion houses, Christian Dior, was born in 1905 in Granville, a seaside town in Normandy, northern France. He started his career in design by opening an art gallery in 1928. When his father lost his business, Dior was forced to close the gallery and he started working with the designer Roger Piquet. He founded his own fashion house in 1946.
THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM His style was all about shapes and forms. He broke away from the austere post-war-look with voluptuous designs incorporating boned bodices, padded hips and wasp-waisted corsets. His style inspired the designer Coco Chanel to declare: “I love you, Christian, but you dress your women like armchairs”. But his “new look” revolutionised women’s fashion and helped establish Paris as the fashion capital of the world after the Second World War.
THE DISSENTING OPINION We will always love him for the following statement: “My dream is to save women from nature”. But some might argue that his legacy can veer towards the wrong side of bling, or maybe it’s just the way he is worn. In Lady Gaga’s video for the hit Paparazzi, she wears four rings on her right hand that spell out Dior.
DO SAY J’adore Dior.
DON’T SAY I prefer Chanel.
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor in chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group. She writes a beauty blog www.beautyorbeast.uk.
Her third novel, The Arnolfini Marriage, based on a romance that evolves around a van Eyck masterpiece came out in 2016. As well as contributing regularly for newspapers and magazines, writing short stories and studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, Helena is also working on a thriller called The Longest Night that will be published in spring 2019. Her latest non-fiction work Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles came out in hardback in 2016 and came out in paperback in April 2018.
Helena was educated at Durham University and lived in the Languedoc region of France for eight years, where the family still have a home. She lives between there and London with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019