Seoul's branch of "Esprit Dior," an international series of exhibitions by fashion giant Dior, marks the luxury house's newfound attention for the Korean market by interweaving the history and philosophy of its designs with the creativity of Korean artists.
"Korea is increasingly positioning itself in the world as an important country in areas of art and creativity," said Florence Muller, curator for Dior at the exhibition's press opening on Friday, June 19. "We considered that now is a good moment for Dior and Korea to have a stronger connection."
The exhibition retraces 10 themes that have been significant for Christian Dior, founder and designer of Dior, and the development of the brand's look -- including Paris, flowers, Versailles and Dior's many artistic acquaintances.
The tour begins with a replica of the Dior couture house on Avenue Montaigne. The life-size installation, created by Korean artist Suh Do-ho, recreates the Parisian mansion through light projections on giant canvas walls, making for an airy, nostalgic entrance.
"The transparent walls make us feel as if we are entering the doorway into the past, into the memories of the Dior house," said Muller.
An ample number of symbolic pieces are on display for the public to admire up close, key among which is the revolutionary "Bar" ensemble of 1947. The outfit is a two-piece with a white buttoned jacket and full, pleated navy skirt that accentuates the bust, dramatically curves inward at the waist and reveals the ankles. Its name derived from the bar at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, the dress was widely heralded at the time as "a new look" that acted as a gateway into modern womenswear, a look that "emphasised femininity and subtle elegance for women who had long been denied such luxuries during World War II," said Muller.
The key pillars of Dior's early philosophy, which endures to this day in his successors, were elegance and form.
"My dream is to make women happier and more beautiful," says a quote by the Frenchman. Growing up on the coast of Normandy in Southern France and spending his childhood in his home garden, he nurtured a love for flowers which, for Dior, in many ways epitomized women, with their beauty, scent and poetry.
At the same time, Dior considered a dress to be a piece of "ephemeral architecture," and placed great importance on not only its fabric and colour but also its structure. Dior originally wanted to pursue architecture as a student, and this love for form contributed to the way he recreated the female silhouette.
A comprehensive exhibition that tells the rich story of Dior's identity and artistic vision, "Esprit Dior" is being held at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza from June 20-Aug.25. Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Other pieces on display include the brand's iconic black suits; dresses worn by celebrity figures ranging from Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to the more recent Jennifer Lawrence and Charlize Theron; and sketches and artwork by Dior's close artistic acquaintances including Picasso, Magritte and Dali. Further, Korean artists who collaborated on the display are Kim Dong-yoo, Park Ki-won, Kim He-ryun, Lee Bul and Pahk Seon-ghi.
Dior's new Seoul flagship store, the biggest in Asia, has also opened on June 20 in Cheongdam-dong.