Christian Dior could contemplate the great expanse of the sea from the window of his childhood bedroom, where he may well have dreamed of travelling to far-off places. England was the first country he visited in his youth.

Christian Dior, Palmyre gown, Fall-Winter 1952 Haute Couture collection, Profilée line
Evening gown in satin by Robert Perrier, embroidered with Swarovski crystals, metallic thread, gemstones, pearls and sequins by Ginesty, Paris, Dior Héritage
© MAD, Paris / Nicholas Alan Cope

After a voyage of discovery to Russia in 1931, Christian Dior carried on exploring the world and travelled to the USA in 1948. That was the same year that Neiman Marcus presented him with the Fashion Award in Dallas. The couturier then set off on a triumphant tour of the American continent, cementing the resounding transatlantic success of his New Look.

The art and culture of the world’s continents provided Christian Dior and his successors with numerous sources of inspiration. John Galliano and Raf Simons were very interested in ornamental African art and traditional Maasai adornments. Marc Bohan and John Galliano offered a new take on Ancient Egypt.

Peter Lindbergh, Kusudi and Kitu dresses, Spring-Summer 1997 Haute Couture collection
Models: Kiara Kabukuru and Debra Shaw
© Peter Lindbergh

Christian Dior paid homage to calligraphy and Chinese dress. John Galliano dedicated his entire Summer 2003 collection to encounters between the Far East and the West. Christian Dior, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri all reinterpreted an array of Japanese themes, from shibori, fukusas, kimonos, and obi knots to Hokusai’s paintings and flowering cherry trees.

The Americas also made an appearance: Christian Dior and John Galliano produced designs inspired by Mexico and Peru, in the colorful tones of Inca art as well as the more somber shades of the conquistadors. References to European art have been an enduring presence, as demonstrated by Christian Dior’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s fondness for subjects tackled in Spanish painting by artists from Goya to Zurbaràn.