From an article in Newsweek, citing Christian Dior's impressions of America, when he moved there during the backlash against his extravagant "New Look" designs in what was an age of austerity in Britain and Europe:
“What alarmed me most in the course of my stay in the United States was the habit of spending enormous sums of money in order to achieve so little real luxury,” he said. “The American woman, faithful to the ideal of optimism which the United States seem to have made their rule of life, seems to spend money entirely in order to gratify the collective need to buy.”How marvellous. I think I may do the same...
Meanwhile, Europeans chose items based on workmanship and beauty, considering the craftsmanship of a piece and how it would be put to use, which, in his opinion, often had the effect of achieving greater elegance. “Poverty is an astonishing magic wand,” he wrote.
“America represents the triumph of the quantitative over the qualitative. Men and women both prefer buying a multitude of mediocre things to acquiring a few carefully chosen articles,” Dior said, openly wondering, “Can one therefore conclude that abundance risks blunting taste?”
Before he opened his doors on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in 1949, he was called before the American Anti-Trust Department for what he described as a terrifying examination over his insistence that clients sign a contract to not copy his designs. “The famous contract was annulled,” he recounted, “But this episode reinforced my conviction, in which all the serious American couturiers concur, that the pillaging of artistic creation is not only authorized in the United States, but encouraged.”
Immediately after opening his French collections and even before his own clients received dresses delivered to their homes, Dior would frequently hear that forgers were secretly circulating albums that reproduced drawings of his new designs in a process that, in the US, was perfectly legal.
“In 1955 alone, more than 1,000 subscribers procured about 300 models [designs] from the collections of the principal French couturiers by this means,” Dior said. “One hundred and forty-two of my own models figured in the album, of which 57 were exact copies.”
As his showings in Paris and elsewhere strictly prohibited sketching and were carefully policed, he reckoned that whoever was attending the shows and forging his creations must have been doing it by memory and was “exceptionally gifted” to remember dozens of dresses in such detail.
To fiercely guard against fraud, he typically asked his buyers to agree not to allow any of his dresses to be passed on to other members of the fashion trade. To track where his dresses would end up, he would stamp them with “secret marks between the lining and the material of each dress” to catch those who broke their word, so if the dresses ended up in the wrong hands, he would know from which clients they came.
Dior, who likened his dresses to his children, would not allow a single frock to leave his house without being marked with “indelible ink invisible to the naked eye” that could be seen only when the material was put under an ultraviolet ray.
Christian Dior (21st January 1905 – 23rd October 1957)