The Genteel
January 20, 2021


Lady Dior as seen by Paolo Pellegrin. Source:
Marie-France Pochna Christian Dior The Genteel
Marie-France Pochna is the author of Christian Dior
and founder of Paris Unlimited.

In a quickly changing market, high-end brands are being forced to innovate and rejuvenate their offerings, many of which are turning towards the three - fashion, art and design - to stand out in the entrepreneurial crowd. The Genteel turns its attention to Christian Dior as an example of smart and stylish reinvention. 

Christian Dior - the man and the brand - have had a long-standing affair with art. From helping to establish the emerging Salvador Dali in 1928 to the recent global exhibit, "Lady Dior As Seen By," both have been committed to nurturing the relationship between fashion and art. No matter your level of expertise, it seems that Dior is able to put anyone under its spell. 

The Genteel speaks with Marie-France Pochna, author of the definitive biography, Christian Dior: The Biography (1994), that has since been published in over a dozen countries. Pochna is a leading luxury expert renowned for driving innovative projects with iconic international brands such as Nina Ricci and Hermes. She is currently working on a travel project, Paris Unlimited, offering bespoke travel experiences in Paris.

Alina Kulesh: How would you describe Dior as a brand? 

Marie-France Pochna: Dior is a stellar brand in the luxury universe. Dior possesses the most important asset in order to constitute a luxury brand: a heritage. In order to develop or maintain a global luxury brand, it must stand for something, have a recognisable aesthetic, high-quality, a sense of history as well as a heart and soul to which people adhere.

The DNA of a brand such as Dior is what allows it to live on beyond its namesake founder. This heritage is what makes it a stellar brand and I use this word, following Bernard Arnault, founder of LVMH, the number one global luxury conglomerate and owner of Dior, who claims his pride to own one the very few "star brands" that exists in the world. 

Dior is a stellar brand in the luxury universe. Dior possesses the most important asset in order to constitute a luxury brand: a heritage.

AK: What is Dior's role in today's fashion world? How does it differentiate itself? 

MFP: As all other luxury houses, Dior's magic needs to be cultivated and re-invented all the time while remaining faithful to its roots and values. This is the way Dior expresses its values: a triumphant femininity; creative energy; a sense of the spectacular; and the promise of happiness, Dior being the brand of enchantment. These values inspire Dior's culture as well as everything the house creates.

AK: Christian Dior - the man and the brand - have had a long-standing relationship with the art world. Can you elaborate on this relationship and its influence on both the brand and the man behind the fashion house? 

MFP: From its origins in 1947, when Christian Dior startled the world with the New Look, he revealed himself as an artist through all his vibes, intent on proposing a new vision of femininity, staging his first collection as a drama, launching his models on the catwalk as actresses and succeeding in provoking such a shock in the audience and beyond that the news of the New Look hit the first page of the New York Times the next day. Christian Dior died ten years later leaving a legacy that made a strong imprint on his successors (Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons).

Christian Dior's vision of the role of the couturier was, to quote him, to be a total artist and act as: a sculptor, for cut, volume and material; a painter, for colour and light; a musician for harmony; a philosopher and poet, for the meaning and harmony; and, we could add, a director to stage the show!

Rongrong & Inri Untitled Lady Dior As Seen By
Lady Dior As Seen by Rongrong & Inri.

AK: The Lady Dior handbag is Dior's iconic product. It is also considered a cult figure on its own. What is the fascination behind the Lady Dior handbag? 

MFP: [It was] the first time the House of Dior successfully combine[d] highly recognised aesthetic symbols such as the "cannage," the Dior letters used as charms - thereby launching a fashion later followed by others (Prada) - and harmonious, well-balanced models developed in various sizes, materials and colours, including evening versions that cater to a clientele spanning from fashion forward to classical. From nylon to crocodile in all colours of the rainbow, Dior has given a life cycle to the product that fascinates both fashionistas and artists.

Luck can also influence the success of a product and the Lady Dior handbag endorsement by Lady Di in her moment of maximum splendor strongly contributed to this product's visibility and desirability.

AK: What is the charm about the Lady Dior handbag? 

MFP: Once a model is successful and has adaptability through its various sizes, materials and colours, it allows women to either simply express their individuality or their desire to show their status, and all combinations of the two in between. 

AK: The exhibit "Lady Dior As Seen By" has attracted the participation of high-caliber creatives, such as filmmaker David Lynch and artist Loris Cecchini. Why do you think this is so? 

MFP: Endorsement by celebrities means popularity but the association with artists brings prestige. The most perfect expression of luxury is art and we live in a paradox which is inherent to the marriage between industry and luxury. Given today's industrial and financial concerns, and in order for luxury products not to appear as a commodity, a well-managed luxury brand never forgets to nourish its links with the worlds of art and culture.

AK: Through this exhibit, Dior also organised a contest between visual arts students at Milan's Brera Academy of Fine Arts. The winners of the contest, Alessandro Carano and Davide Stucchi, are participating artists at the current "Lady Dior As Seen By" show in Milan. What is the significance of a fashion house fostering and encouraging the creation of art? 

Endorsement by celebrities means popularity but the association with artists brings prestige.

MFP: This offers a good opportunity to bridge a generation gap and nurture the ties with the artistic world, on one side, and with the confirmed artists on the other, to feel the pulse of the up-coming talents of the next era.

And, from a media and PR perspective, this does not hurt! 

AK: What conclusion can we draw about our culture creators' - photographers, filmmakers and artists alike - eagerness to interact with material goods to create art?

MFP: It's all to the advantage of these confirmed artists and talents whose creations are thus enabled to proliferate from the unique piece to a democratic product. The association with a prestigious luxury brand name gives them a perfect opportunity to create an accessible product without hindering their status of artist.

AK: What is Dior's entrepreneurial intent behind the creative effort of "Lady Dior As Seen By"? What will the exhibit bring to Dior's already prestigious brand? 

MFP: Every so often in the life of a product, an amphetamine effect helps renew the interest in a brand and its product range. It helps keep alive the loyalty of its aficionados and attract new customers.

Cristina Fei visits the "Lady Dior As Seen By" exhibition at Milan's Triennale Museum.



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