Imagine sophisticated clothes but imbued with simplicity, without forgetting to add a touch of insolence. This is the guideline that Marc Bohan has strived to follow throughout his career as a couturier within the house of Christian Dior. He died Wednesday, September 6 at his home in Burgundy, aged 97. If he was interested in fabrics from childhood, his family would nevertheless try to dissuade him from embarking on the path of sewing. Born on August 22, 1926, in Paris, he began studying finance after his baccalaureate, obtained at the Lakanal high school in Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine). But it was without counting on the determination of a young man determined to follow his instincts and his desires.
So he quickly abandoned these "boring and tedious" studies, to be hired as a workshop apprentice at Jean Patou, before becoming an assistant model maker at the fashion designer Robert Piguet, in 1946. He left to carry out his military service in 1948, and upon his return multiplied his experiences with the leading creators of the time: he thus joined for a time the Parisian workshop of the British Edward Molyneux, then that of Madeleine de Rauch, a stone's throw from the Champs- Elysees.
In 1953, he opened his own fashion house on the prestigious Avenue George-V, then the epicenter of Parisian chic. However, he was forced to put an end to it a year later, his poor financial management playing tricks on him. If he returns to Jean Patou for a while, the adventure of his life awaits him. He was called by the Boussac family, then owner of the Christian Dior house, to replace at short notice the young artistic director, Yves Saint-Laurent, called up for military service in 1957. The latter had been appointed to this position a few months earlier, following the sudden death of Christian Dior.
A sober and falsely wise line
When Yves Saint-Laurent returned from his military service, the place was taken: the Boussacs had found their star couturier. He was officially the artistic director of the Christian Dior house from 1961 to 1989. Under his leadership, the Dior silhouette, made famous by the “New Look” line in 1947, was sober and falsely wise. The dresses and suits are elegant and popular with all of Paris, femininity is nestled in the detail of a bow or a hem, embroidery illuminates jackets and dresses designed for the evening... It crosses the ages and knows perfectly how to transcribe its essence in his creations. Liberation of the body in the 1960s through little flowing dresses, introduction of cotton t-shirts worn with loose pants in the 1970s, grandiloquent sheath dresses during the following decade… the Dior look established itself with panache .
Innovative, he will be the first couturier to offer a line for young children in 1967, called "Baby Dior", followed by a range of men's clothing called "Christian Dior Monsieur", in 1970. A lover of perfumes, he will also anchor home in this promising market. “Eau sauvage”, the house’s first bottle for men, in 1966, was a success. To rejuvenate the brand's image, he also created a line for young girls in 1967, simply named "Miss Dior". A great friend of the stars, he will be the one who dressed Elizabeth Taylor, Grace de Monaco, Sylvie Vartan and even Callas. In 1967, it was to him that we owe Farah Diba's sumptuous outfit during the coronation of her husband, the Shah of Iran.
“My friends are sometimes surprised by my hiding behind the name Christian Dior. My only ambition was always to justify the confidence placed in me, from Marcel Boussac, to all those whose talent I knew needed for the house of Dior to be maintained", he wrote in the preface to the catalog of an exhibition dedicated to his work, at the Dior Museum in Granville (Manche), in 2009. In 1984, Bernard Arnault bought Christian Dior Couture from the Boussac group, and kept Marc Bohan at the head of style. In 1983 and 1988 he received two Golden Dice, the ultimate reward for a haute couture designer. He retired from the podiums in 1989, to make way for Gianfranco Ferré. The work and world of Marc Bohan are highlighted in the book Dior by Marc Bohan (Assouline, 2018), signed by fashion journalist Jérôme Hanover.