The Amazing Story of Alla Ilchun, the Kazakh Muse of Christian Dior

Alla Ilchun (1926 – March 8, 1989) was the first Euro-Asian model who has worked for twenty years at Dior. She was famous for her waist of 49 cm and eyeliner arrows.

Information about the family and the ancestors of Alla Ilchun is not very much preserved. Her father, Zhuanhal Ilchun, was allegedly a railway engineer. He was able to get a decent education thanks to his wealthy father, who lived in Kazakhstan. He participated in the construction of Turksib, and on the eve of the revolution was in Harbin. This city was founded as a station of the Chinese Eastern Railway; accordingly, many Russians lived in Harbin. Zhuanhal Ilchun met here the beautiful Tatyana, the opera singer. They started a family, soon their daughter Alla was born.

However, life in Harbin in the early of the twentieth century was very troubled. The Soviet, Chinese and Japanese governments tried to take the city under its influence. Harbin periodically passed from hand to hand, and the residents didn’t add peace of mind. The family decided to go in search of a better life. Russia, where the October revolution had already taken place, did not attract them, it was decided to go to France.

Tatiana arrived in Paris with her daughter. Zhuankhal Ilchun, according to Alla Ilchun’s son, was caught and sent to the GULAG. The capital of France was in no hurry to caress two foreign women who decided to find their happiness here. But they firmly decided to start life anew in Paris.

Growing up Alla began working as a dishwasher in a restaurant. She did not dream of a model career, and she was not accustomed to complaining about her fate. She just knew for sure that everything in her life would be fine.

And then the Second World War began. Alla Ilchun joined the ranks of the French resistance. She lost one of her friends, Ariadnu Scriabin, and she herself repeatedly risked her life. And only after the war, Alla finally pulled out her lucky lottery ticket.

Alla’s friend dreamed of becoming a model and was a regular participant in all sorts of castings. On that day, the girl felt unwell and asked Alla to replace her at the casting with Christian Dior, who at that time was just beginning his independent path in the fashion world. Coming to the casting, she found only a team of workers in the fashion house. The girl cheerfully chatted with them and left, deciding that her friend had clearly confused time or place.

A few days later, a phone call rang in Alla’s apartment, and the secretary of Mr. Dior informed Alla Ilchun about hiring a Christian Dior fashion house. To the girl’s remark about the failed participation in the casting, the secretary cheerfully noted: Mr. Dior was among the workers, and the oriental beauty and graceful figure of Alla conquered him at first sight.

A new and unfamiliar life has begun for Alla. Since that day she was waiting for daily fittings, numerous shows and shine spotlights. Christian Dior called Alla his personal talisman, because every show with her participation had an unprecedented success. The stars were ready to buy the dresses demonstrated by the beauty immediately after the model left behind the scene.

She was femininely fragile and possessed inimitable grace. High cheekbones and slanted eyes gave her a unique charm, women around the world began to imitate the model, trying to reproduce the long arrows that emphasize the eyes. The fashion for them remains today, just few people know that for the first time the world saw such an unusual make-up on Alla Ilchun’s face back in the 1950s. Working with a French fashion designer became happy for the model itself. At one of the many photo shoots Alla met Mike de Dülmen, Dior’s staff photographer. She subsequently married him and bore two sons.

10 years, until the death of the master, continued the cooperation of Alla and Christian Dior. However, after his departure she did not remain without work, for another decade she worked closely with Yves Saint Laurent.

Alla Ilchun decided to finish her modeling career when she began to notice signs of age on her face. She wanted to remain in the memory of the audience and fans as the young and beautiful. For twenty years of work in the fashion world, her waist has grown from 47 centimeters to only 49, but the stamp of maturity was already visible on her face and body. After retirement, she did not participate in photo shoots and led a closed lifestyle.

Here, a collection of 40 fabulous photos captured portrait of Alla Ilchun as a model in the late 1940s and 1950s:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: