updated 26 May 2011, 12:46
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Thu, May 26, 2011
The Business Times
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Dior's new look
by Melissa Lwee

IN 1947, after a huge economic crisis that struck the world in the aftermath of World War II, a designer called Christian Dior revolutionised fashion with a collection that was not only shocking but - dare we say it - scandalous.

'Mr Dior did something amazing because he went in a direction that was the total opposite of the fashion trends at that time,' reveals Serge Brunschwig, chief operating officer of Christian Dior Couture, who was in town recently to launch the new Dior duplex store at ION Orchard.

'At a time of austerity and rationing, he decided to make a collection of totally feminine outfits that used a lot of fabric such as very very long dresses.

Called the New Look, it was an instant success because it gave back to women their appearance and their glamour.'

Today, more than 60 years down the road, the house of Dior is again ready to shake up the world of fashion at the height of an economic crisis.

As much homage to the bravery of a man who dared to defy tradition as it was cool business strategy, not only has the fashion house decided to open a new two-storey boutique in Singapore in these tough times, it has opted to devote its Orchard Road facade to its menswear division Dior Homme, which is new to the local market.

The entrance to the more familiar Dior Ladies is on the second floor of store.

'Dior is a brand that is about being audacious and creating revolutions so even though Singapore might have been ready for Dior Homme for a few years already, we wanted to wait until we could launch it in a way that was impactful,' explains Mr Brunschwig.

'We thought that to give Dior Homme and not Dior Ladies the facade of the store facing the main Orchard Road stretch was a strong way to launch the line. Yes, it is, to many, an unexpected decision to most but this is exactly how shocking Mr Dior himself would have been.'

Mr Brunschwig goes on to say that believes that Dior Homme will find favour with the Singaporean market as the Asian men tend to appreciate the slimmer cuts that characterise Dior Homme.

'For the longest time, men were stuck in a very big dilemma and that was how to be elegant and masculine at the same time. I think that Dior Homme has managed to provide a solution that works very well,' he adds.

'In fact, Dior Homme has caught on to the point that it has now become a street look. The number of young boys on the street dressing up in Dior Homme style is amazing. Just like how Mr Dior made the New Look style the look of the generation in the '50s, Dior Homme is doing that for men in this millennium.'

Mr Brunschwig goes on to say that in true Christian Dior style, the house of Dior will continue to reinvent and revolutionise the fashion industry by not bending to the economic crisis and that they will continue to push their creative vision forward.

He says: 'Was there an impact on the sales? There was some. But was there an impact on how we conduct business? Absolutely not. We continue to open stores, we are still investing very strongly in our advertising campaigns and we will absolutely continue to be creative when we create our collections.'

Indeed, if John Galliano's latest haute couture collection for Dior - where half-dressed models were sent down the runway - was any indication, these are certainly not empty words from Mr Brunschwig.

He concludes: 'The luxury industry is not about fulfilling needs or demands. It's about proposing new things and proposing them in a such a strong way that it becomes a must.We create desire because we create objects that are exceptional.'

'For example, if Dior Homme had not started, men would continue to live, they would not have known that they need Dior Homme, but now that we've proposed the Dior Homme look to them, then they know they don't want anything else.This is why a brand like Dior has to invent all the time because we cannot and will not simply rely on demand alone.'

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This article was first published in The Business Times.

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