Stephen Jones & Christian Dior in Tokyo

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Photography by Noam Levinger

Exploring the French couturier Christian Dior’s legacy, the travelling exhibition Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams has opened in Japan at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Charting the evolution of his eponymous house and his influence on the history of high fashion today, ‘Designer of Dreams’ is now on its fourth iteration, after being presented in Paris, London and most recently New York. Featuring a new scenographic narrative by OMA archiect Shohei Shigematsu, the space holds 350 dresses and draws upon traditional Japanese craft techniques such as washi paper bound on wooden frames. As a tribute to Japanese culture, this edition highlights the Japanese influence on the French house throughout its 75-year history, from Christian Dior to his successors Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and current Artistic Director of Womenswear Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Unveiled amongst the haute couture creations are a plethora of whimsical accessories, including hats made by Christian Dior himself as well as reinterpretations by longtime Dior collaborator and A#12 curator Stephen Jones. Sharing a common millinery background with the French couturier, the British milliner details his craft at the exhibition in dialogue with both Christian Dior and Japan, in an exclusive interview below with A Magazine Curated By.

Photography by Noam Levinger

How did you reinterpret hats for Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams for it’s Tokyo edition?

There were quite a few new outfits for which we did not have hats. These were outfits which had not been exhibited before. From Monsieur Dior all the way through to Maria Grazia Chiuri. So where we did have the hat, we could use the original. Where we didn’t have the hat, often we would make a faithful reproduction, but sometimes we just do an interpretation.

What can you tell us about Christian Dior’s own relationship with Japan?

He was always very inspired by Japan, even in his childhood home in Granville. There were some Japanese birds painted on the ceiling, which you can still see today. The fashion in Japan and the ‘Japonesque’ were very important for him when he was a child. When he was a couturier, he signed a license with Japan in 1949 to create special collections for the Japanese woman in Japanese fabrics. He even created three wedding dresses for the Empress. Since that, Japan has been a frequent inspiration, all the way from Marc Bohan, John Galliano in particular, and Maria Grazia to Raf Simons.

What materials did you use that relate to Japanese culture and the arts & crafts tradition?

There is a the Japanese section of the exhibition, where the clothes are shown against a background of washi or hand-made paper. You will see hair hats inspired by Japan, using raffia in binding techniques which are essentially Japanese.

How has Maria Grazia Chiuri added to this exhibition, with new pieces and nuances for Tokyo?

Shown here are two particular outfits she created for the fashion show that she did in Tokyo a few years ago. Throughout the exhibition there are different outfits from Maria Grazia which are sympathetic to the Japanese aesthetic.

Do you have some favourite creations in the show by various Dior designers that inspired particularly exciting feats of Millinery for this show? 

Many of the hands in the show were not mine, but some of the originals from Monsieur Dior are beautiful in their simplicity — because of course, he was a hat designer before he was a dress designer.

How has Japan inspired you over the years in your work, and what other special memories and connections have you forged there?

Japan has always been a background for what I do. My first ever exhibition in the world was in Japan, in 1984 at Isetan department store. And it was on the way there that I met Rei Kawakubo, with whom I have had almost a 40 year creative relationship.

Left: ‘In this particular section called J’adore is a dress worn by Charlize Theron. If you show a mannequin without something on their head, it gives a very strange dynamic to it. What I tried to do – because she was not wearing a hat – was an interpretation of the silhouette of her hairdo. It’s made out of transparent plexiglass which has been gold-leafed.’

Centre: ‘This was a Gianfranco Ferré hat which Dior Heritage did not have anymore. So we made as faithful a reproduction as possible of this hat in the Christian Dior atelier.’

Right: ‘Complementing this outfit by John Galliano is a large mask in a V-shape, which echoes the scissor silhouette of the dress. Within this particular area, there are over 35 different ball gowns in this extraordinary display. Each one wears a mask because Christian Dior and all his followers loved creating masks and masks became somewhat of the handwriting of Dior.’


Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo until May 28, 2023.

Photography by Noam Levinger

Photography by Noam Levinger




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