Heroines of a new world
In this third episode of our series dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Dior house, we explore the relationship that the creator had with the models of his presentations.
They were called Alla, Lucky, Praline, Tania, Renee and were, with some others, the ones that Christian Dior called fairies: his fetish models and eternal muses. The first, Alla Ilchun, high cheekbones and a rare smile, cat’s eyes highlighted by a touch of arrow-like eyeliner, owed her atypical, half-slavic, half-asian traits to a Russian mother and a Kazakh father. . It was for his talent to glamorize the looks that the designer, while she was standing for a replacement, had her retained. “Hieratic, always a little mysterious, a model must intrigue. The theatrical expression ‘to have presence’, often overused, takes on its full meaning here. It was because of this presence that I hired Alla, “he recalled in his memoirs. Mysterious, also known to all-paris for her inseparable dog, she worked for more than two decades for the house, also fascinating the successors of Christian Dior by her way of strolling, “seemingly impassive and distant”.
The second, Lucky, was no less impressive. With her Modigliani-like figure and her angular face, this Breton woman with almond-shaped eyes radiates an air of a distant princess. And was one of the most sought-after models of the 1950s. “Lucky is tailoring put on show: from a dress she can do at will a comedy or a drama. (...) She does not wear a dress, she plays it”, mused the master.
In contrast to these arrogant beauties, Praline and Tania, while cheerful offhand, represented, with their rebellious guerrilla profile, “the type of a mannequin turning into a woman and not the woman turning into a model”. When Christian Dior meets her, in the early 1940s, Praline is already a star at the couturier Pierre Lelong. Her aura, as crunchy and sweet as her nickname, carries everything in its path: an attitude that casually fits perfectly with the New Look spirit, which she will be one of the stars.
But it is Tania who, amongst the drama queens of the house, is the most devastating. And that is since the very first runway of Christian Dior. Like her mentor, “unknown on February 12, 1947, famous on the 13th” (to use the words of Françoise Giroud), this impetuous Russian sees, from one day to the next, all the projectors focused on her face and her silhouette: it is she who wears the famous tailor “Bar” that becomes star of this inaugural show. A success supported by her incendiary way of twirling her corolla skirt. The young Slavic was famous for her passionate character: her hot temper made her shake the windows when the outfits she wore did not arouse the applause of the public. “Tania, it is Eve with all her tricks, her lies and her drama, with, also, her grace, her kindness and her possible devotion. If there are sacred monsters in fashion as in theater, she would certainly be one of them,” he said.
Removing the dress
The historical face of the Dior house, Tania Janvier-Kousnetzoff also foreshadows the important presence of Slavic beauties in the castings of 30 Avenue Montaigne, then led by the head of the cabin, the Baroness of Turckheim (called “Tutu” by the models), in contact with many families
Right page, Christian Dior with Renée in 1957.
From top to bottom, Tania, Alla and Lucky in the years 1940-50, in Paris.