© Association Willy Maywald
Dior & His Decorators: Victor Grandpierre, Georges Geffroy, and The New Look
by Maureen Footer, Interior Design Historian
Author Maureen Footer, a former interior designer and expert in French decorative arts, gives us the first in-depth account of the two Parisian interior designers associated with Christian Dior. Victor Grandpierre and Georges Geffroy were much more than the interior designers for his home; they were personal friends and professional colleges of Dior. It was Geffroy who introduced Dior to the world of couture. Grandpierre masterminded the look of Dior’s couture house- and was the one to “brand” Dior with the stylistic details that define the brand to this day, down to packing and logo. Both designers became quite famous amongst the smart set of Paris. Clients included aristocrats, Parisian socialites, wealthy ex-pats, and celebrated film stars and artists.
photo Courtesy of the Dior Archives
Little known facts about Christian Dior:
- Dior studied architecture at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which would prove to have a profound effect on his fashion design
” My weakness is architecture. I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body.”
- His father was ruined by the stock market crash
- He intended to have a career in art, but the promise of his art gallery was interrupted by war
- His fashion design drew inspiration from the Enlightenment, Belle Epoque and Empire chapters of French history
The New Look Generation
The feel of post-war Paris was one of gloom, restriction, rationing, uniforms, and gravity. On February 1947, Christian Dior ushered in a new era of seductive style and glamour when he presented his first collection at 30 Avenue Montaigne. The collection caused shockwaves on both sides of the Atlantic. Bar jackets, unique silhouettes, longer lengths, accentuated waists, emphasized busts made the fashion editors go wild. Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow, exclaimed “It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!” A correspondent from Reuters seized upon the slogan and wired it back to the United States, who got the news before the rest of France, where the press had been on strike. New Look became a term to define the unabashed luxury of this new era of fashion and design.
The Christian Dior Couture House at 30, Avenue Montaigne
Showing clothes to best advantage was the objective of a couture salon. Gray and white, in an immaculate space, set off the polish of every Dior collection. To maintain such poised perfection, workmen arrived before every collection to touch up walls and reinforce chairs. Grandpierre’s hallmarks of design blended refined traditions of the past with a modern sense of elegance to create a New Look on interiors- tiger, leopard, gilt, banquettes, gray and white, Louis XVI, trompe l’oeil, antiques, fluted legs, saturated color, and fur throws. His look is sophisticated and classic to this day. Today, whenever tastemakers reach for gray and white, leopard and houndstooth, satin skirts and sunburst mirrors, they are paying homage to the New Look chic of Dior.
© Sabine Weiss
Above we see sublime creations of Roger Vivier, a former sculptor, displayed like artwork in the shoe boutique. Naturally, gray and white and Louis XVI seating defined the space. In a time before computers matched the paint colors, the formula for Dior gray was a strictly guarded secret.
Courtesy of the Christian Dior Parfums collection
Nearly all couture houses had small shops stocked with accessories, perfume and novelties. Beyond providing finishing touches or frivolous amusements, the items sold represented an important source of income to the haute couturier, whose profit on couture was at best, slim. At the perfume counter shown above, the Dior design vocabulary is evident in bottles and packaging. The message of Dior was seamless, elegant, and unforgettable. Dior’s new lipstick line, also introduced in 1955, graces the counter in both glass obelisk containers and more traditional portable tubes.
© Mark Shaw/MPTV Images
Gray spelled elegance to Dior. It appeared in the collections, the packaging, and the couture house, and became synonymous with the Dior brand.
How might Dior’s designers advise the current generation of interior designers?
- Make independent design choices. Inform your eye by looking, but never copy. Striking originality, be it Dior’s New Look, Geffroy’s or Grandpierre’s posh interiors stem from being true to a personal point of view.
- Be curious about the world around you. Without curiosity, design can’t move forward and it certainly can’t capture its time. Learn from the past, incorporate the present. Interiors will be rich, resonate, and connect the occupant to a larger spectrum.
- Remember that a home should be a haven. A living space should welcome and embrace its owner and nurture the soul. Upholstered walls create soft spaces; fabrics that feel good are welcoming; color creates mood. Reach for quality whenever you can.
- Incorporate antiques. Not only are antiques beautiful, but they also connect us to our past and remind us of who we are. They are like family photos on our desktop.
- For a little zip, reach for tiger silk velvet and a glass of Champagne!
All too often, we see interior design brands draw improbable links between their products and the fashion world. Footer skillfully explains a very real, in-depth blend of design and fashion that is well worth the read. This connection offers an insightful snapshot of post-war Paris, design, and branding, well before it became a marketing term.
“I wanted to explore the intimate relationship of fashion and design- and Dior, Grandpierre, and Geffroy provided the perfect subject matter. In couture dresses and bespoke drawing rooms, they spoke the same language, reviving civility and glamour in the aftermath of World War II.” -Maureen Footer
WIN A FREE COPY OF DIOR AND HIS DECORATORS
How? Simply go to my Instagram account @theCourtneyPrice, follow me on Instagram, like the Dior post and tell me why you would like to win the free copy. The winner will be direct messaged via Instagram on Friday, October 5 late afternoon. This book is so chic that I want to share a copy.
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