Fashion Collectors: Caroline Low-Heah's Love For Old Glamour Led Her To Discover Christian Dior
“I’ve never seen nothin’ so beautiful in my whole life,” exclaimed Angela Lansbury as she gaped at the two Dior gowns in a scene from the 1992 film Mrs ’Arris Goes to Paris. Set in London in the 1950s, the story followed a charwoman who had saved up for three years to purchase the gown from the house of Dior in Paris. Watching the film struck a chord with Caroline Low-Heah, who was then a student.
Flipping through issues of British Vogue that she had collected since 1982 as a teen growing up in the UK and Ireland, Caroline formed her style likes and dislikes. She first declared a love for French fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro in 1985. “I spent my first salary as a houseman on a dress from Mr Ungaro,” she recalled. “There goes my salary!” She developed an appreciation for the old glamour look, which led her to Dior during its stylistic director Gianfranco Ferré’s last season.
Now the medical director of Drs Jiten & Caroline Medical Centre, the self-professed “one-brand woman” is not just a Dior customer but also a collector. Standouts from her wardrobe include an evening dress with a corset‑like back, a grey shift dress inspired by men’s tailoring, and silhouettes that take after the New Look, the style of women’s clothing introduced by founder Christian Dior in his first haute couture collection in 1947—her favourite era from the house’s 72‑year legacy. Featuring a cinched waist, rounded shoulders and a full skirt with a hem that fell just below the knee, the look was formal, classic and elegant—style notes that Caroline still live by.
Couture is a bit like a Nonya making Peranakan food from scratch. You cannot buy freshly ground ginger, you have to pound it yourself.
Her relationship with the brand deepened after she attended her first Dior fall/winter haute couture show in Paris in 2013, which allowed her to better understand the history and philosophy of the house. Through her trips to view its archives and ateliers, she has gathered an appreciation for the artistry in its craft.
“Couture is a bit like a Nonya making Peranakan food from scratch,” opined Caroline, a Peranakan herself. “You cannot buy freshly ground ginger, you have to pound it yourself.”
(Related: Weaving New Magic: How Christian Dior's Signature Print Got An Update)
This journey has also landed her in the company of the house’s former designers John Galliano and Raf Simons, as well as Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s current artistic director. In Caroline’s opinion, Chiuri’s couture season in July was her best with its reincarnations of the New Look silhouette and throwback to vintage glamour.
Caroline’s sartorial Everest will be acquiring the Junon, a couture gown from Dior’s autumn/winter 1949/50 collection. While that is currently not in her plans, she mentioned that she will be visiting the Dior atelier on her next trip to Paris, possibly to recreate something from the archives. Watch this space.
(Related: Meet The Tatler Scions: Nicholas Mark Heah, Elizabeth Heah And Pierre Gregory Ip)
We speak to three other fashion collectors, as they share more about what's in their closets. Find our more in our September issue cover story.
June Rin | Ginny Ng and Dawn Koh
- Photography Darren Gabriel Leow
- Fashion Direction Desmond Lim
- Hair Grego/Indigo Artisans, using Keene Haircosmetics Singapore
- Make-Up Cheryl Ow/Indigo Artisans, using HERA
- Photographer's Assistant Eric Tan
- Stylist's Assistant Joey Tan