On October 25th, I walked into a quiet room full of 10-15 people working delicately and silently moving into what resembled a makeshift Paris atelier inside the Denver Art Museum. You could hear murmurs of soft French being exchanged between seamstresses and Florence while video cameras and observers silently looked on. The room is expansive and one of the backdrops of the new exhibition opening November 19th Dior: From Paris to the World. Hundreds of mannequins were neatly tagged and placed in lines along every wall. I take a deep breath and am introduced to the mastermind behind this quiet and beautiful chaos: Florence Müller.
Florence Müller, a Paris native has a long history with Dior and fashion. Now the Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art & Fashion for the DAM she has spent many a days, months and years watching, exploring and curating a world of Dior. Since the 1980’s Florence has worked on over 15 exhibitions about Dior including the Christian Dior Museum in Normandy which takes place in the former family home of Christian Dior. That is where our conversation began…
In 1987 Müller worked on a retrospective of Mr. Dior’s life for the prestigious Louvre Museum. Needless to say, I was already shaking in my semi-platform loafers, but I quickly settled into the awe of the woman in front of me and the knowledge and stories she was going to unpack for me over the next half hour.
After the YSL exhibit at the DAM, Müller accepted a position leading her to be in Denver for the past three years, but not completely full time. Getting ready for Dior: From Paris to the World required countless flights from Paris and back almost every month for the past two years. Curating from famous museums, the achieves and private collections, including 7 pieces from Hamish Bowles, editor at Vogue. As she says “I am always in an airplane, I still have the same lifestyle”.
After noting how much work that sounded like she assured me it is also a lot of fun. Each day Müller remembers counting a sum of 100 dresses being placed on and off mannequins to find the perfect ones lucky enough to spend their next few months on display. Of course, she didn’t do this alone, but only with the help of her most trusted team members, Hélène Starkman, from the Dior exhibitions team in Paris and Jane Burke, senior curatorial assistant for the DAM’s textile art and fashion department, who I also had the pleasure of meeting (both humble and dressed impeccably).
As Müller was pulled aside by Hélène to check the work of a seamstress I watched with a sudden realization of the moment I was observing. Quick French was exchanged as Müller hurried back to me explaining exactly what words were exchanged and jumped back into the conversation without missing a beat.
“It is like Christmas morning” she describes each time a near king size box is lifted onto a table opened and with the most delicate gloved hands and an exquisite dress is pulled out to be shown to the world. I asked if there was ever one that stood out more than the others and she replied no, that they all amaze her and began giving me a tour of each dress being worked on that day.
When I asked her about Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current artistic director at Dior Müller seemed to settle into a conversation into what truly inspires her and Chiuri: women. According to Müller, Chiuri loves women. She wants them to feel powerful whether they are in tulle or a suit (similar to the one we both showed up wearing in fact). This led us to my final question: What do women need to hear from you?
“You have to be conscious of yourself, you have to understand that fashion is here to help you. It means you don’t follow the trends like a blind person, pick and choose what works best for you.” She believes we need to have a list of what we as women believe are our best assets and what is not. You need to accentuate your best and wear garments that reshape your worst. Which is exactly what Dior has been about since 1946.
Fashion is for all. And just as quietly as it was when I came in Florence Müller lowered her voice, looked me in the eye and simply said,
“There is nothing to be afraid of. Women are too beautiful to not try fashion”.
Thank you Florence Müller for your grace, poise and inspiration you left me with. Thank you to the Denver Art Museum for this opportunity of a lifetime. I am beyond excited about many upcoming Dior festivities and will be filling you in on it all. Make sure to buy your ticket now to see the exhibition for yourself - I promise you, you will be awed.