The Dior brand was started by Christian Dior in 1946 in Paris. Monsieur Dior’s first collection in spring 1947 was acclaimed as the ‘New Look’ and created a sensation, not only in Paris, but overseas as well, in New York and London. The collection was distinguishable by its narrow waists, soft, rounded shoulders, and long flowing dresses, and created to emphasize the elegance and femininity of Dior’s so-called ‘flower women’.
Since the original excitement surrounding the New Look, the Dior brand has made itself stand out from other luxury brands with its innovative approach to marketing. The Dior name was licensed for a diverse array of different accessories, paving the way for the diversification of other haute couture brands. Equally revolutionary was Yves Saint Laurent’s decision as artistic director in the 1960s to offer a prêt-à-porter range, bringing high fashion to the public. It was a controversial move at the time, but other fashion houses soon followed suit.
These two values of feminine elegance and product diversity continue to be reflected in the luxury goods of the Dior range today, including its most iconic item, the Lady Dior bag.
Since the bag first arrived in 1995, there have been a large number of variations on the Lady Dior, with many different colours and shapes available, as well as versions from different materials such as crocodile or python skin, or tweed. In Dior’s Spring/Summer 2011 show, a bright pink and orange version of the Lady Dior with a leather fringe has even been released, a dramatic contrast with the classic, elegant black lambskin bag the first grabbed people’s interest.
The bag’s popularity soared after it became a favourite of Princess Diana. She received the bag as a present from Bernadette Chirac, the wife of the French President. Dior subsequently decided to name the bag after her, and sales figures rocketed upwards.
The Lady Dior is handmade by seven craftsmen, in an elaborate process requiring one-hundred-and-thirty pieces of leather stitched together over a wooden frame, as well as forty-three pieces of metal for the tiny metal feet at the base of the bag, taking a total of eight hours for each bag.
The short, round handles give the bag a distinctive air of elegance and charm, the silvertone or goldtone metal D-I-O-R charm hanging from one side create a feeling of opulence, and a reference to the brand’s name and, by implication, its luxury values. The cannage stitching of the leather is a work-of-art in itself, and is synonymous with Dior.
While it is the quality of the materials and even more so, the quality of the craftsmanship that separate the authentic Lady Dior from cheap imitations and replicas, it is its refined feminine elegance that set it apart from other similar luxury items. It has been compared to Chanel’s quilted leather bag, but it is a very different style of bag. The crystal-like pattern of the cannage, the relative lack of explicit brand placement, and the short, solid handles seem to give the Lady Dior an elegance that makes it feel more formal than Chanel’s bag.
The Lady Dior is arguably the most iconic member of Dior’s product range. It emphasizes the same values of femininity and grace that Christian Dior first introduced with his New Look in 1947. It has become diversified to offer something to suit all tastes, and modernised since the original 1995 version, but its high quality craftsmanship and rich heritage continue to make it a classic item worthy of the label of luxury, as well as its expensive price tag.
By Yelim HONG