There are many designers in the fashion industry. Few make some kind of an impact on fashion but most designers rarely have any impact at all. It is truly a once in a generation that designer comes along and completely alters the fashion universe and becomes a legend. Two examples of fashion designers that are this rare are Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen. Christian Dior’s life p was before mine but his great impact on the fashion industry carries on today into my lifetime.
Alexander McQueen, however is someone I have lived to see develop and become one of the greatest designers of all time. Although these two designers differ in their style and aesthetic, there is always more than meets the eye and there are many similarities between these two visionaries. Christian Dior was born in 1905 in Granville, which is a small town off the coast of Normandy. Ever since he was a little boy all Christian wanted to do was work in some aspect of the arts. He was the second born of 5 children and was born into a wealthy family but Dior did not always have such an easy life.His family underwent extreme hardships such as his mother and brother both passing away in 1931. These deaths were also followed by another disaster, the collapse of his family’s firm.
The only way Dior could make a living was by selling his sketches to couture houses with hopes of somehow landing a job. Many people do not know this, but Christian Dior also served in World War II for a year until France’s surrender. He then went on to assist Parisian couturier in dressing the wives of Nazi officers for the remainder of the war. After the war, France’s economy was weak and everything including clothing was in short supply.But sometimes the most beautiful things arise from the ashes of such disasters. Christian Dior believed post-war France needed a new style, and from this thought came Dior’s famous “New Look” created in 1947. At the time the designer was working for Marcel Boussac and ran the idea by him.
He described this look as luxurious, featuring large, billowing skirts, soft shoulders and cinched waits, a look quite different from the sharp shoulders and knee length skirts the Wartime women were currently wearing. With Boussac’s blessing the first Christian Dior couture show was on February 12th 1947.No one could have possibly predicted the amount of buzz that would follow this collection, which would be later be known as the only Revolutionary fashion ever. Dior’s hunch that women needed something new after the war was correct and it also fit the upcoming roles of women in history, taking on their roles picture-perfect housewives for strong political men. Dior’s “New Look”, which got it’s name from Harpers Bazaar Editor in chief Carmel Snow’s exclamation “It’s Such a New Look”, not only put French Fashion back on the map but took over internationally as well.Through the 1950’s Christian Dior became the best haute couture house in Paris. Celebrities from all over wanted to wear Christian’s looks and clients included American Movie Stars, Socialites and more.
In 1957 Christian Dior died of a heart attack while choking on a fishbone. It was feared the house of Dior would close down without the designer alive. But it was announced that a twenty one year old Yves Saint Laurent would take over as creative director. The first collection after Dior’s death was a huge success and Saint Laurent was soon a household name himself.He soon went on to open his own couture house, that is legendary in itself. In 1966 John Galliano took over the Dior house and remains there till this day. Christian Dior is a fashion icon as his the current and future Dior house and is the image of the ultra-elegant feminine woman everyone desires to be.
I have no doubts that the Dior name will be a staple in fashion history for many years to come. Alexander McQueen was born March 16, 1969, and like Christian Dior was born into a large family, his being of 6 children. Unlike Dior though, McQueen did not have a wealthy upbringing, as his father was a cab driver and his other a teacher. McQueen was openly gay at age 8 and was often teased in school by other kids. Alexander McQueen, whose real name is actually Lee Alexander McQueen, knew that he wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. At age 16 he dropped out of school and went to work at the traditional Savile Row for Anderson and Sheppard and Gieves and Hawkes. He then went to work for theatre costume makers Angels and Bermans where he learned the sharp tailoring that has become a distinct signature of his and the theatrics in his design that make them so iconic.
He then traveled to Milan to work for Italian designer Romero Gigli. In 1992 he returned to London to receive his masters in Fashion Design. This led to his discovery by aristocratic style guru and former editor of Vogue, Isabella Blow, who would go on to become a lifetime friend and mentor of McQueen. Blow assisted McQueen in making all the right connections and helped him find commercial success while staying true to his artistic vision. She was the one who convinced Lee to adopt his middle name as the name of his label.Like Christian Dior, McQueen has had a huge impact on the fashion industry and created wild buzz with his designs. Although Dior had a much more classic and feminine style and McQueen’s designs were way more over the top, theatrical and edgy, these were the designs that made heads turn.
McQueen’s shows become events that only the cream of the crop of the fashion industry and Hollywood could attend, and were so theatrical and entertaining they were almost like theatre themselves. He was named British Designer of the year four times throughout his career, the first being only two years after he met Isabella Blow.He was also appointed to follow in the footsteps of designer John Galliano and become creative director of Givenchy. Although this was a huge platform for McQueen, after working for Givenchy for 5 years he felt like designing there was constraining his individual creativity. He then joined the Gucci group and continued working in his own label. McQueen went on to create a global fashion empire. He, like Christian Dior, soon had a huge celebrity clientele.
They differ because Christian Dior had more classic elegant stars wearing his looks while McQueen had more daring fashion forward people wearing his clothing.Stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss became Alexander’s biggest fans and closest friends. Known for the emotional power and sometimes disturbing images, McQueen’s shows soon showed at Paris Fashion Week instead of London. Some of his shows include inspiration from mental asylums, Lord of The Flies, dark carnivals and post-apocalyptic predictions. He admits that his shows are his own living nightmares, and it’s apparent after seeing some of his dark looks. This is a major difference between Dior and McQueen.Dior drew inspiration from ladylike images like flowers and beautiful places, while McQueen found his inspiration to be the complete opposite of that.
In February of 2010, McQueen tragically took his own life only nine days after his mother Joyce died. It is rumored that his mother’s death left him feeling helpless and alone especially since Isabella Blow also committed suicide in 2007. McQueen’s death, like that of Christian Dior’s was a huge loss to the fashion industry. His Last show was entitled “Plato’s Atlantis” and is often referred to as one of his greatest collections.Like the Dior house after Christian’s death it was unsure if the house would go on without McQueen until Sarah Burton was appointed the new creative director. Her first collection for the McQueen brand was just shown for Spring Summer 2011 and I must say it was quite magnificent, showing her personality while staying true to iconic McQueen looks. Alexander McQueen is my favorite designer of all time and is the most influential designer to me.
I compare him to the likes of Christian Dior not because they have similar styles but because of the massive impact they have had in their prime and for years to come after their untimely deaths.Christian Dior’s shows are more traditional while McQueen’s are out of the ordinary spectacles but I think the greatest similarity between the two designers is that they dared to be different. While many designers fear of stepping outside of the box, Dior and McQueen did just that and were bold enough to do something no one else had thought of in their collections. No matter how different the two designers may be, they both were out of the ordinary for their time and that is what will make their names legendary and iconic forever.
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