Paolo Roversi captures the history of Dior in the folds of a new book
‘I aways say that the designer is the composer of the music and the photographer plays the instrument – or is the interpreter of the piece,’ says Paolo Roversi, in the introduction to Dior Images, a new Rizzoli-published masterpiece, which celebrates the 70-year history of the French maison’s haute couture atelier. The house of Dior is one brimming with famed fashion images – take the nipped in silhouette of its renowned 1947 New Look, the scalloped skirt of M Dior’s Venus-inspired ‘Junon dress’, twinkling with beading and embroidery, or the the historical references held together in the folds of a John Galliano designed gown.
Dior Images is a physicalised hand-held celebration of Dior’s 70-year anniversary. It follows last April’s extensive retrospective exhibition of the maison’s history at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Roversi’s poetic and painterly Polaroids are also wrapped up in the maison’s history — the Italian photographer who arrived in Paris in 1973 after a chance encounter with Peter Knapp is a longtime collaborator of Dior.
The exquisite publication is both an archive of Roversi’s work, and also holds within its pages a new shoot with stylist Grace Coddington, which captures the revolutionary silhouettes M Dior crafted each season, from the S/S 1948 Haute Couture ‘Zig Zag’ line to the A/W 1965 Haute Couture ‘Y line’. Roversi has captured each shape from the small studio he has inhabited for three decades, using merely a cloth backdrop and a wooden stool as props.
Roversi’s deeply personal narrative with Dior is also captured in a series of handwritten diary-like inserts tacked onto pages of the book. In these excerpts, Roversi directly addresses a model or editor, like the model Mathilde, shot with wild ringlets in a Gianfranco Ferré for Dior A/W 1990 Haute Couture gown for Vogue Paris or the renowned Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani, who died in 2016, and commissioned him time and again to shoot Dior Haute Couture for her magazine’s pages.
Roversi also captures the moment that the maison’s archive arrived in his Paris studio for his Grace Coddington shoot. ‘On a simple gray backdrop, a parade of dreams unfolds…’ he says. ‘A fantastic succession of fabrics, shapes, times and colours outside time and space.’