How Christian Dior’s Childhood Home Shaped His Designs and Destiny - The Gloss Magazine

How Christian Dior’s Childhood Home Shaped His Designs and Destiny

The designer’s childhood home, Les Rhumbs, became the Christian Dior Museum, and each year it hosts a temporary exhibition inspired by a certain theme. Here’s what you can expect to find if you plan a visit this year …

“I have the most tender and amazing memories of the house of my childhood … My life, my style, owe almost everything to its location and its architecture…Plaster of a very soft pink mixed with grey gravel, its two colours remained my favourite shades in sewing … It stood on a cliff, in the middle of a fairly large park planted with young trees that have grown with me against all odds …The property directly overlooked the sea … and it was exposed to all atmospheric storms, like what would be my life, which was not calm.” So wrote Christian Dior in his autobiography, Dior on Dior.

He was speaking of his childhood home, Les Rhumbs, in Granville, Normandy, which is not far from Mont St Michel. (Granville, by the way is sometimes referred to as the Monaco of the north). Les Rhumbs was built in the 19th century and named after the old marine term “Rhumb”, designating a wind rose divided into 32 rhumbs, a symbol which appears as a mosaic floor ornament in one of the house’s entrances. Christian Dior’s parents bought this grand house with its winter garden located in a park in 1905.

It was here that Mr Dior developed a love of flowers, inspired by his mother Madeleine who created a rose garden. Apparently he loved nothing more than perusing catalogues from the Parisian seed seller Vilmorin Andrieux. Inspired by motifs from these seed catalogues several decades later Dior’s homeware department, Dior Maison, released the “Granville” tableware collection (2021).

Of course, flowers provided inspiration for the first Dior haute couture collection in 1947, with the “Corolla” silhouette resembling a circle of flower petals, an implicit tribute to the designer’s childhood garden. This floral influence continued from 1947-1957 and has appeared ever since in the creations of Mr Dior’s successors.

It was also in Granville, at a fete, that Mr Dior first met a fortune teller, who made a significant prediction: “You will find yourself penniless, but women bring you luck and they will be the key to your success. They will earn you great profits and you will have to cross oceans many times.” (recounted in Dior by Dior). Like many designers (including Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli) Mr Dior became highly superstitious – signs, omens and predictions would be very important for him, particularly the sign that led him to launch his own fashion house in Paris in 1946. He kept a metal star as a lucky charm, which he found when he stumbled upon it in a Parisian street. This is displayed in the winter garden at Les Rhumbs. The lily of the valley, a symbol of good luck, appeared on many designs and accessories (Kris Van Assche, creative director of the menswear division Dior Homme from 2007 to 2018, included a men’s suit decorated with this flower in the AW14-15 collections.)

Though Mr Dior’s parents moved to Paris when he was six, they kept Les Rhumbs as a summer home. After his mother’s death he added a pergola and pool, which still exists.

In 1997, Les Rhumbs became the Christian Dior Museum, and each year it hosts a temporary exhibition inspired by a certain theme which showcases items from its permanent collections. Recent exhibitions have included “Dior Hats” and “Grace of Monaco: A Princess in Dior.” This year’s theme is “Christian Dior, Visionary Designer.” Across the villa’s three floors, the three sections of this exhibition tell the story of Mr Dior’s journey from Granville to Paris, taking in trips to London and America, demonstrating how his creativity was influenced by his childhood. The pieces on display are mostly from the Museum’s collections. For example, the Bonne Année dress created for the AW1957-1958 collection with its delicate, silver hibiscus flower embroidery, is displayed alongside a bustier dress embroidered with multicoloured flowers created by Maria Grazia Chiuri for the SS21 ready-to-wear collection.

Bringing together many unseen sketches, photographs and documents, the exhibition is a chance to immerse yourself in Mr Dior’s universe and revel in his timeless designs.

Need to Know: “Christian Dior, Visionary Designer”, is on until November 3 at the Christian Dior Museum, villa Les Rhumbs, 1 rue d’Estouteville, Granville, France. Admission is from €10.

Photographs throughout © Benoit Croisy, coll. ville de Granville.

Glossy tip: Stay in the pink palace of Château Hôtel Du Colombier in nearby St Malo which dates back to the 18th century, and is surrounded by pretty gardens, yet only a five minute drive to the beach.


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