Christian Dior at a feast of St. Catherine, circa 1950.


The tale has become part of the history of the house of Dior. A century ago, a palm reader told an impressionable young boy in a seaside town in northern France that he would succeed — through women. She saw him penniless one day, and later amassing great profits.

The prediction would prove accurate and would fuel the appetite of the boy, Christian Dior, for mystical guidance well into adulthood.

The successor to his early fortune-teller came in the form of Madame Delahaye, who resided in the well-to-do 16th arrondissement of Paris. Countess Jacqueline de Ribes also consulted Delahaye and recalled crossing paths with Dior on the narrow, winding staircase of the clairvoyant’s building.

“Without her, he did nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing,” said Pierre Cardin, who encountered Delahaye in the Christian Dior atelier, where he worked.

Delahaye guided Dior on such key decisions as setting up a couture house under his own name and, according to de Ribes, the clairvoyant had pressed Dior not to travel to Montecatini, Italy. He died on the ill-fated voyage in 1957, at the age of 52.

Dior obsessed about numbers, always having 13 models when he presented his collections, recounted Victoire Doutreleau, one of his favorite mannequins.

He also had a fondness for the number eight, founding his house in the 8th arrondissement of Paris on Oct. 8. One of the lines in his first collection, for spring 1947, bore the name Eight before becoming known as part of the New Look movement.

Known for harboring extreme anxiety despite his good manners, Dior also collected talismans. He commissioned his florist to produce lily of the valley for him year round so he could always carry a sprig of the spring bloom with him.

The imprint of Dior’s superstition has left lasting traces at the couture house. As part of a navy-themed collection by the brand’s current artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri, French department store Galeries Lafayette this month is selling a navy blue silk scarf with a celestial map of the stars outlined in gold and a series of candles, each bearing a zodiac sign.

Meanwhile, the symmetry of the brand’s ultra-modern Ginza store in Tokyo is broken by a star that sits on the rooftop, a wink to a crucial moment in the house’s history.

Mulling over the question of whether to take up an offer by a wealthy textile merchant to head a couture house bearing someone else’s name, Dior’s foot struck a metal star that had fallen on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. That was it. He would answer yes, but under his own name. And keep the star.

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