Christian Dior was one of the most revolutionary French fashion designers in history, credited with establishing the very Parisian ‘New Look’ after the war. However, his inspiration wasn’t only drawn from the French capital. Indeed, the island of Mykonos played a surprisingly influential role in his early collections.
In the 1950s, Mykonos was an unknown and idyllic retreat for the rich and glamorous international set. Amongst these was the Parisian legend Christian Dior. The designer regularly summered on the island, finding inspiration not only in the landscape but also from local handwoven Mykonos textiles.
These bright, Byzantine-esque patterns continue to be the island’s signature. Yet thanks to the French designer, they reached customers all over the world. Dior was so smitten with the local designs that he commissioned handwoven materials on a mass scale.
By the time Christian Dior disembarked at Mykonos, the textiles scene had been accumulating accolades for some time. It was in 1937 when two Mykonoian craftsmen, Theodoros Harakoulos and Taro Kodizas, won international recognition for their work during the Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques in Paris.
For centuries, these textiles were produced on looms operated by a foot peddle, and at the height of the textile industry in Mykonos, there were reportedly around 500 working looms. However, over the past 50 years, these hand-operated machines have gradually been replaced with industrial machinery.
The Mykonos fabrics formed the basis of Christian Dior’s couture collection in the 1950s, and the impact of Greece on the French designer was felt in consequent collections too.
In 1951, the designer brought French luxury to the heart of the Greek capital. Dior’s couture photo shoot took place around the Parthenon in the Acropolis (a feat that few designers have been able to recreate since, in spite of recent attempts by the likes of Gucci and Chanel). The models are wearing Dior’s lavish, iconic dresses. Cinched waists and voluminous skirts offer a striking contrast to the simply dressed ancient caryatids that are pictured behind.
Not only did the designer take photos of his clothes in Greece, but he also named dresses after Greek locations such as Athens and Corfu. These names were matched with Grecian-inspired designs, where draped fabrics in pale silks evoked the ancient styles.
Had the designer not died tragically in 1957, who knows what role Mykonos and its textiles might have continued to play in his designs. However, Christian Dior may have been satisfied by the events taking place on the island today.
This summer the Mykonos-Dior connection has been revisited by a new Dior pop-up shop in Mykonos. Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Dior, has even designed capsule pieces to bring the special relationship to the modern era. Travellers to Mykonos in 2018 can pick up custom bags, bodysuits and silk cravats with the slogan ‘J’adior Mykonos’.
The references to the island’s traditional textiles may have been replaced with more direct slogans, but the affection towards the island by the brand’s founder is celebrated nonetheless.
If you visit Mykonos this summer, make sure to stop by the fashionable pop-up to embrace this slice of fashion history. Then head to one of Mykonos’s most decadent beach clubs to show off your style.