What many may not know today is that Monsieur Christian Dior himself only worked for ten years under his own name (1947-1957). Yves Saint Laurent - his designated heir – handpicked by the great designer just prior to his death, was also briefly there as couturier.
As history would have it, the Christian Dior “Suits” – investors – considered Yves Saint Laurent’s work too youthful and too avant-garde for the esteemed house, and gave him the boot – perhaps one of the greatest ironies in fashion history.
Soon after, Marc Bohan took over the creative reigns for well over two decades and offered collections that were on par with what the bosses wanted, which through his careful handling, were also amazing commercial successes. Bohan, in many ways, approached haute couture like luxe ready-to-wear, looking at the changing world around him for inspirations and nuances, which in turn translated in a huge fan base throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
With Bernard Armaud’s acquisition of Christian Dior in the mid-80′s, Gianfranco Ferré came to replace Bohan as head couturier in 1989. During his tenure, Ferré, an Italian, made the conscious effort to look at the established Christian Dior “Codes” created over the years (specific cuts, shapes, colors, ornamentation) to guide his own designs there. By the mid-1990s, the tide moved toward directional edgy fashion as John Galliano took charge, literally reinventing the Dior machine, and reintroducing noteworthy fur collections under his name.
Many people may not know that within the Christian Dior history laid an imposing fur presence. The house of Christian Dior was also a huge influence on the global fashion stage for its fur designs. And the man behind the man behind it was the one and only Frédéric Castet!
Frederic Castet was not only the master furrier for the house from 1953 to 1988, he was the go-to man for millionaires and celebrities for anything fur and spectacular. He is credited for treating furs like any other materials used in haute couture creations, often being more painter than tailor; this aspect allowed him to redefine what a fur garment could be in the modern age.
Frédéric Castet’s great creativity and originality with fur design brought him the nickname of “Michelangelo of fur” among designers, the fashion press and his devoted clientele. Sophia Loren, who was almost entirely dressed in Christian Dior for at least 20 years, wore Bohan and Castet equally (rumors are that she still has every single look stored in her villa in Switzerland).
Once at Christian Dior, Castet brilliantly oversaw the haute fourrure department and established a prêt-à-porter fourrure department in 1968 based on the haute couture vs. prêt à porter model. At Christian Dior, fur design was as important as its other collections, and for that reason Castet was given carte blanche to experiment with the medium without any restrictions.
Frédéric Castet died in 2011 at the age of 81. If you look closely at what designers have shown in recent collections, his work is certainly making a distinctive comeback.
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