I’ve always been inspired by true life stories; fairy tales scripted into the realms of reality. Tales that remind me that someone out there once faced the impossible and made mince meat of it. One person whose life has enchanted me of late is Christian Dior. His story is one that throws light on beauty in its little details. Christian Dior was one of the most successful fashion designers in the 1950s who changed the face of fashion in his generation. With his innovative designs, his drive for perfection and distinctive approach to the fashion business, Christian Dior formed what is considered today to be the standard for high fashion. Reading his autobiography drew me into his life, from which I have learnt so much, not just about fashion but life in general. Here are few things I have picked up from Christian Dior:
1. Even the Greats were once unsure and afraid: Before Christian Dior launched his own fashion business, he worked as a designer for a fashion house for a long time and was genuinely content with his life. Even when the opportunity of moving on knocked on his door on two occasions, he never embraced it as he never thought he fit the script of a revolutionary who could champion a fashion house. It was only after he had heard a colleague of his, Pierre Balmain had moved on to start his own business, that he considered the notion of launching out. Opportunity came the third time and he embraced it, his heart betraying his fears as he pitched his ideas passionately to business investors before he could truly grasp what it would mean to live his dreams. In his own words: “Having entered very late into this profession which others had spent a lifetime learning, and having only instinct to guide me, I had always been afraid of betraying my ignorance. Perhaps it is this very fear of remaining the perpetual amateur that spurred me on to brush aside my doubts at last and create the character Christian Dior, the couturier”. He overcame his doubts and fears to become one of the biggest names in fashion history.
2. We shine brighter in the light of others: One thing quite unique about Christian Dior was his attachment to his team. Although he was clearly talented, he devoted a lot of his resources to recruiting like-minded people with unique (and sometimes varying) perspectives to the fashion business. This shows that no matter how talented you are, you need great people to work with you in bringing your vision to life. The passion with which Dior speaks of his team tells us that he deeply appreciated their unique contributions and valued them.
3. Don’t ask why, only ask how: Christian Dior launched his first collection in 1947, after the end of the 2nd World War. At this time, the world was just recovering from the aftermath of war and accustomed to lack and scarcity. As such, women predominantly dressed in black and masculine clothes. That was certainly not the time to be dressed in expensive or lavishly made attire. This however did not deter Christian Dior from pursuing his lavish and flamboyant aesthetic; instead, it inspired him. He didn’t stop to think of people’s perception of his actions but instead he focused on his vision and did it anyway. His first collection broke the mold of fashion and was termed “the new look”. The truth is, you don’t start an Apple or a Google by following the status quo. Pursue your dreams and let it drive you to do the impossible.
4. Be true to yourself and not the world’s perception of you: After his first collection, Christian Dior rose to fame in an unexpected trajectory. He was considered a revolutionary in his field and was quickly courted by the public. Being a humble man with a homely appearance, he began to wonder if his looks matched people’s expectations. At a point he considered changing his image, investing in more suits. He however was quick to call himself to order and separated the man from the brand. He made peace with who he truly was and never lost sight of it. In our generation, we would call this “not believing in your own hype”. This helps you in maintaining the clarity of vision which you need to continue to succeed.
5. Give yourself to your passion: Passion, skill and desire alone cannot yield results without hard work. From inception to completion, Christian Dior (and his team) gave themselves completely to his designs. From fabric choices, creating the samples, selecting models for each design, dress rehearsals, fashion shows to even the selection of an office space, everything was selected and executed with tireless precision and dedication. The more I read about him and his work, the more I wonder if the people (and the public) he designed for were even deserving of his work!
Final Notes: Every success has a story. Before you become enchanted, find out what darkness the stars went through to find their light. and let this inspire you to greatness!
Which of these lessons stand out for you? Tell us!