Creating a new look in fashion is no small feat, and Christian Dior unleashed his in 1947 — and in capital letters. His waist-cinching, fan-skirted New Look caused a sensation, and set the foundation for an empire that continues to thrive today. In Paris, women on the street tried to attack models being photographed in lavish Dior dresses, enraged by such extravagant use of fabric in the austere, postwar period. “I never guessed what an explosive quality my modest formula would prove to have in an age of compromise and laissez-faire,” the designer said at the time.

Although his glorious career was cut short with his death in 1957, Dior cut a wide swath in fashion history, innovating with a business built on the principles of luxury and craftsmanship. His successors — a new one arriving soon, in the wake of Raf Simons’ exit — continue to interpret his influential silhouettes. The founder certainly felt the pressure of leading fashion, and embraced the need to provoke with bold creativity. “To manufacture emotion,” he once said, “a man must have a working agreement with madness.”

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2015 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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