From the creations of yesterday to the resolutely modern work of Christian Dior’s latest successor, Raf Simons, Esprit Dior highlights the exceptional virtuosity of the House of Dior, synonymous with French elegance and Parisian chic.

Join curator Florence Muller on an exclusive tour of the exhibition 'Espirit Dior' at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), Korea.

Esprit Dior at DDPDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP

Esprit Dior

The Esprit Dior exhibition is a journey into the extraordinary universe of Christian Dior: his imagination, deeply influenced by art, his friendships with the most famous artists of his time, his unique talent for offering sublime and inimitable silhouettes with each new collection, his love of 18th century splendor, and his sense of the marvelous. From the creations of yesterday to the resolutely modern work of Christian Dior’s latest successor, Raf Simons, Esprit Dior highlights the exceptional virtuosity of the House of Dior, synonymous with French elegance and Parisian chic. Here, the Haute Couture ateliers unveil their parade of wonders, and the world of Dior perfumes adds to the magic.

Dior (2015) by Dongyoo KimDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


“Before, I ran an art gallery. I sold pictures, with which painters expressed their personality. Later, I too wanted to express myself in my own way and I began drawing dresses.”
Christian Dior

As a young man, Christian Dior had a great love of architecture, of forms and volumns. Dior chose to become a gallery owner and bring the attention of the world to the artists, painters and sculptors he admired so much. He was only 23 when he exhibited work by Picasso, Dalí, Giacometti, Bérard, Klee, Calder and many more. He was bold, and he had excellent taste. He was eager to pay homage to the artists, the object of his enduring admiration and created a great many dresses bearing their names.

Cella (2012/2013) by Lee BulDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Esprit Dior, the Dior spirit, is first and foremost the spirit of a visionary designer who wanted to offer women beauty and elegance, as well as happiness.

Christian Dior’s visionary genius stands out ever more clearly with the passing of the years; his creations still convey the same splendid elegance, and all of them, from 1947 onwards, are strikingly contemporary. Six leading Korean artists, Do-Ho Suh, Lee Bul, Heryun Kim, Kim Dong-Yoo, Kiwon Park and Seon-Ghi Bahk, have created works that pay homage to the romantic, artistic and cultural dimensions of these creations.

The subtle interplay of gowns, fragrances, accessories, historical documents and photographs paints a portrait of the incomparable House of Dior and tells the unique story of its special ties with the world of art.

"The Bar Suit", ‘Esprit Dior’ (1947)Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


On 12 February 1947, Christian Dior revolutionised the fashion world by creating a unique silhouette, soon to be dubbed the New Look, which accentuated the wait and hips and showcased the bust. The curve of the body was stylised, the body itself was idealised.Over ten year, every season Christian Dior invented new lines that wrote the history of contemporary fashion and created a distinctive style unlike any other. The model presented demonstrated how, from his debut until today, the couturier and his successors have worked as veritable clothing architects. Here we can read the history of female elegance, but also that of unrefuted boldness. Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano and Raf Simons took on the Dior look, making it their own in order to take it further, towards the modernity of their era.

30 Avenue Montaigne:Façade + Passage + Dior (2015) by Do Ho SuhDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


“Dear Christian, your dresses have such a New Look!”
Carmel Snow, Editor of Harper's Bazaar

As the centerpiece of this historic presentation, the Bar ensemble became the iconic standard bearer for this new fashion, which celebrated precisely-cut lines, sumptuous materials and femininity in its sheerest form.

With its very name-a reference to the bar at the Plaza Athénée hotel next to the House of Dior-proffering an enticing invitation, the Bar ensemble was nothing less than a passport to modernity. The jacket cut to enhance the bust, its remodelled waist sculpted by basques and worn over the corolla ankle-revealing skirt: every detail was designed to create a perfectly shaped silhouette.

30 Avenue Montaigne: Façade + Passage + Dior (2015) by Do Ho SuhDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Christian Dior moved to Paris when he was still a child. The French capital always held an overwhelming fascination for him. He loved its architecture, its elegance, the Parisian art of living. Once he became a couturier, he set his heart on a townhouse he had spotted years earlier. He felt that it was the most perfect, the most harmoniously proportioned, the most completely and discreetly elegant, in short, the most Parisian of places.

He set up his couture house at 30 Avenue Montaigne, thus turning the mythical address into the supreme symbol of a Paris that was inventing fashion and making the whole world dream.

When Christian Dior founded his couture house, his vision, his feeling for constructing garments and his artistic sensibility ensured that he immediately took up his rightful place as a vastly talented couturier. In his multi-faceted role as architect, sculptor and painter, Dior created a world filled with enchantment and splendour for women.

The Dior Allure, ‘Esprit Dior’ by Christian DiorDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP

“I think of a dress as an ephemeral architecture, dedicated to exalting the beauty of the female body.”

Christian Dior

Paris, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP

"Paris is couture. Couture is Paris"

Christian Dior

Aventure ensemble, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Envol line, Haute Couture collection, Spring-Summer 1948

“True luxury requires genuine materials and the craftsman’s sincerity. It is only meaningful when it respects tradition.”

Christian Dior

"Pink symbolizes happiness and feminism."

Christian Dior

Silence dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Gianfranco Ferré for Christian Dior

Haute Couture collection, Autumn-Winter 1989

The Dior Ateliers, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


The final pieces in the chronological display, created by Raf Simons, represent a return to the very essence of the couturier’s vision: the line in all its purity and power, emboldened by a highly contemporary attitude. They symbolise the continuity of the Dior spirit.

The influence of this Haute Couture savoir-faire can be seen in all the areas that make up the modern-day Dior universe : High Perfumery, High Leather Goods, High Jewellery, Timepieces. They all work closely together, guided by the same quest for perfection. You can imagine Christian Dior making a slight alteration or Raf Simons commenting on a detail. This is the very heart of the couture house : usually hidden away from the eyes of the world, here you see it revealed in all its magic-the Dior magic.

“Monsieur Dior was the architect of clothing par excellence.”

Raf Simons

Toile of a dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Raf Simons for Christian Dior
Haute Couture collection, Autumn-Winter 2012

Dior (2015) by Dongyoo KimDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


The dresses and works of art speak of the time when Christian Dior was developing his taste through contact with all those artists, who were also his friends, such as Christian Berard, Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau. Wishing to pay tribute to these artist whom he admired ceaselessly, he created a number of dresses bearing their names. When Chistian Dior created his couture label, his vidion, his sense of the construction of a garment and his artistic sensitivity instantly made him an incredible couturier. Architect, sculptor and painter at the same time, Dior created a world of enchantment and splendour for women. Beyond the spirit of an art lover, the work of a genuine artist is crafted. Chistian Dior's successors have striven to uphold this tradition and continue to draw inspiration from the founder's artistic world. Raf Simons, who has close ties with artists and is an art collector himself, chose to work with American artist Sterlin Ruby right from his very first Haute Couture collection. 

Rene Gruau dress, ‘Esprit Dior’ by René GruauDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Haute couture, Autumn-Winter 1949

Dior and His Artist Friends, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP

“This agile genius of our times whose magical name contains Dieu (God) and or (gold).”

Jean Cocteau

Stars in Dior, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP

Sunshine (2015) by Kiwon ParkDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Art installation by Kiwon Park

Sunshine by the artist Kiwon Park invites the viewers to the world of Christian Dior's color scheme. As a genius colorist and designer, Dior's childhood was an endless inspirational source for color palettes. The exterior wall of his house in Grand Ville where he spent his childhood was painted in very unique pink. Many of his works was inspired from this particular pink. Also, the garden of the house was full of roses in soft pink to vivid red.

Opera Bouffe, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Aimant line, Haute Couture Spring-Summer 1956

Pink to Red, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


The miniature gowns displayed here are reduced-scale replicas of the original designs, crafted by Dior’s Haute Couture ateliers with the same rigour and attention to detail as their full-scale counterparts. A condensed expression of splendour and magic, they illustrate the palette of pink to red tones that has coloured the creations of all the House of Dior’s designers, from Christian Dior himself to Raf Simons.

Stars in Dior, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Christian Dior was the designer of choice for a plethora of royal customers. In 1951, Princess Margaret was photographed in a splendid Dior ball gown, with Cecil Beaton behind the lens. Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, was always ready to express her fondness for the House of Dior, and was never seen without her Lady Dior, the handbag named in her honour, sporting it in a whole range of colours and sizes.

Right from the start, in 1947, the fashion Dior created, steeped in poetry and beauty, attracted the world’s most beautiful women, from actresses to crowned heads. Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren were all Dior women. The couturier was also asked to design costumes for a variety of films.

Esther dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Profilée line, Haute Couture Collection, Autumn-Witer 1952

Eizabeth Taylor wearing the Soirée à Rio dress (1961)Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Jennifer Lawrence (2013) by Raf SimonsDongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Today’s most talented and beautiful actresses, such as Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence, who received her Oscar dressed in Dior, are all exquisite stars shining in the Dior galaxy.

Palmyre dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Dior rhymes with “or”, the French word for gold, as the artist and Christian Dior’s friend pointed out. The most precious of metals, gold represented far more than a colour to the couturier: he saw it as a symbol of French-style luxury and sophistication brought to perfection. So it is unsurprising that he described the golden embroideries that adorned his gowns as “Versailles embroideries”, in homage to the gold tones of the palace that never ceased to inspire him. From one collection to the next, he used gold as an outer sign of elegance, accentuating the line of a dress here, bringing a sparkle to a fabric there.

The Dior Garden, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


“After woman, flowers are the most divine creations.”
Christian Dior

For Christian Dior, all flowers were imbued with the nostalgic scent of his childhood garden. In Granville, on the Normandy coast, when the young Christian accompanied his mother in the garden as they looked after their roses, he fell in love with flowers, their beauty, their perfume and their poetry. Once he became a couturier, he dreamed of filling the world with ”flower women”, characterized by “soft shoulders, ample busts, nipped-in waists and skirts as wide as corollas.” His collections were a perpetual ode to flowers, and his successors have continued on the same flowery path.

Korean artist Heryun Kim

You can see a blooming “garden” facing twelve rose paintings by Korean artist Heryun Kim. The artist’s roses are in conversation with a bed of flower-dresses, precious and rare, created by Christian Dior and his successors, from Yves Saint Laurent to John Galliano. The poetic and floral dimension of Christian Dior’s work continues to inspire Raf Simons, who shares his predecessor’s love of gardens and nature.

Palmyre dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Profilée line, Haute Couture collection, Autumn-Winter 1952

Rose France dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Fléche line, Haute Couture collection, Spring/ Summer 1956

Versailles: The Trianon, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


When Christian Dior founded his couture house, he wanted it to have a refined, elegant ambience with an 18th-century feel that reminded him of his Parisian childhood. He chose medallions surmounted with the Fontanges bow, neo-Louis XVI chairs, white panelling and Trianon grey drapes. On the ground floor of 30 Avenue Montaigne, the Colifichets boutique was designed to resemble an 18th-century shop selling luxurious trifles and hung with toile de Jouy.

“After completing the salons, Victor Grandpierre created the tiny boutique which I intended to be a copy of the 18th-century shops which sold luxurious trifles.” Christian Dior

In 2013, the Trianon provided the setting for the film Secret Garden 2 – Versailles. The following year, Raf Simons offered his own take on the 18th century with his Autumn-Winter 2014 Haute Couture collection.

Organza dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Raf Simons for Christian Dior
Haute Couture collection, Autumn-Winter 2012

Miss Dior dress, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


Trompe-l’œil line, haute couture, Spring / Summer 1949

Miss Dior display, ‘Esprit Dior’ (1950)Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


“Make me a perfume that smells of love,“ Christian Dior asked perfumer Paul Vacher. And so Miss Dior was launched on February 12, 1947, coinciding with Christian Dior’s very first collection. The couturier was careful to spray the new perfume in all the salons. It was named when Christian Dior’s muse, Mitzah Bricard, greeted the arrival of Catherine, his little sister. The ideal name for a perfume that conjures up a modern and daring young woman. Every one of the House of Dior’s style codes were used to adorn the Miss Dior bottle : a Louis XVI medallion, the Fontanges bow, hound’s-tooth check and Trianon grey.

J’adore, ‘Esprit Dior’Dongdaemun Design Plaza | DDP


An ode to flowers, J’adore celebrates pure, sophisticated and glamourous femininity. It gathers together the noblest flowers from the garden of raw materials to create a unique, generous and harmonious floral bouquet. The J’adore bottle, its shape evoking En 8 line launched by Christian Dior in 1947, is possessed of a rarely seen purity of line and nobility.

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