We've gotten spoiled when it comes to fashion blockbusters in the last few years. From the Met's 'Savage Beauty' to the V&A's Balenciaga show, and from Valentino's Roman retrospective to the globetrotting experiences created by Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, there's little left to wow us any more. Which is, perhaps, why the curators of Dior's 70th anniversary exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris have taken a different approach. Yes, there are some jaw dropping moments, from a stairwell lined with seven decades' worth of magazine covers to the grand finale, in the museum's triple-height hall, where an animated light-show highlights row upon row of the house's most spectacular ballgowns.
For the most part, though, the exhibition is a far more intimate introduction to the legendary designer than you might expect. Low, darkened, corridor-like displays lead the viewer through the phases of Dior's career, from shy country child to Surrealist art dealer to global superstar. Separate rooms pay tribute to the many designers who've worked at the house since Dior's death, from Yves Saint Laurent, and Marc Bohan to Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and current creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. At first, the set-up is disorienting; rooms are devoted to themes, from art to flowers to fragrance. Vitrines are organised by colour rather than by date, showing a mix of clothing, accessories, sketches, packaging, photographs and memorabilia from across the decades. But the cumulative result of all this piled-up detail is to make you realise that Dior has become an icon precisely because of all of these elements; not just the iconic couture pieces, but the perfumes that sold in their millions (and probably still keep the house afloat today), the images which introduced Dior into popular culture, produced by everyone from René Gruau to Guy Bourdin to Nick Knight; the way each designer in turn refers back to certain themes and shapes over and over again.
Seventy years after Christian Dior introduced the New Look, his business remains one of the tentpoles of French fashion. And that's what this exhibition really depicts, underneath all the remarkable displays of couture craft and design innovation; the creation of a superbrand.