Illustrations from Rene Gruau

by Elia

René Gruau was an Italian-born illustrator who worked at the front line of high fashion for more than 60 years. Many of his leading fellow illustrators tended to be iffy about the genre or chose to neglect it, confining their work to one publisher or fashion magazine.

But Gruau is credited with being much more than a Mr Puff: his coverage of the latest thing in dress, accessories and perfumery stimulated an awareness of French fashion after the Second World War, a period when the industry needed a boost to get back on its feet again.

Gruau worked for many patrons including Balmain, Givenchy, Schiaparelli, Jacques Fath and Edward Molyneux, and also for suppliers of top-quality textiles, cars and brandy. He did ballet sets and costumes.

But arguably it was his creative collaboration with Christian Dior and the House of Dior that stamped his reputation. Beginning with Dior’s New Look in 1947, Gruau’s connection with the couture house continued well after Dior’s death in 1957, until the late 1990s.

John Galliano, the dress designer at Christian Dior, has suggested that Gruau ‘captured Dior’s style and spirit better than any other because he understood his long-term friend… for me a Gruau sketch captures the energy, the sophistication and daring of Dior, and equally is testimony to an enduring friendship.’

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