The story of Alla Ilchun, a Kazakh Cinderella and a partisan who became the muse of Christian Dior
Categories: FashionBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/the-story-of-alla-ilchun-a-kazakh-cinderella-and-a-partisan-who-became-the-muse-of-christian-dior
Marlene Dietrich and Mitza Brikar are considered the muses of the great couturier Christian Dior. But the biographers of the fashion designer can name another name — Alla Ilchun. This amazing woman has been undeservedly forgotten for many years and they started talking about her relatively recently. Meanwhile, it was her that Dior called his lucky charm. Alla Ilchun has been with the master since the very foundation of his fashion house, experienced his ups and downs, and also inspired new collections.
Very little is known about Alla Ilchun's family. Her father, Zhuankhal Ilchun, was a railway engineer and participated in the construction of Turksib. Before the revolution itself, he decided not to return to his homeland in Kazakhstan and stayed in Harbin, China.
This city was an important junction station of the Chinese-Eastern Railway connecting the Celestial Empire with Russia and a lot of Russians, Kazakhs and Tatars lived in it. It was here that Zhuankhal met the beautiful Tatiana, a Russian opera singer. Soon after they met, the couple got married and Alla was born.
But the quiet life of a young family in Harbin did not work out. The city and the station were too tasty morsel for the Soviet authorities, the Chinese and the Japanese. He was constantly changing hands and shooting was constantly heard on his streets. That is why Joanchal decided to take his family to a more civilized place where it will be safe.
Soviet Russia, as an option for moving, was not considered in the family, but they chose distant but prosperous France, or rather Paris, as their place of residence. But Alla's father was not destined to get to civilized Europe. Shortly before his departure, the Red Army soldiers came for him and no one saw him again. Years later, Alla Ilchun's son told reporters in an interview that his grandfather had perished in Soviet camps.
But Tatiana and Alla were able to escape from Harbin, overcome thousands of kilometers and settle in Paris. It must be said right away that the French capital greeted the two emigrants unfriendly. With no savings, women were forced to accept the lowest-paid jobs to pay for housing and buy their own food.
Alla got a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant and was happy with this modest but stable job. Of course, the girl did not even think about any modeling career then, but just hoped that the black streak would pass and everything would get better in life.When the Second World War began, Alla left her restaurant and joined the ranks of the French resistance. Ilchun participated in battles and looked death in the face more than once. Her friend Ariadna Scriabina, the daughter of a famous composer, died before her eyes, but Alla herself was lucky to go through the war even without injuries.
After the war, life returned to its normal course and, as before, Alla had no thoughts about a modeling career. As often happens, His Majesty chance intervened in her life. Ilchun's friend, who was trying to find herself in the fashion world, fell ill and asked Alla to replace her at one of the important auditions.
It was a set of girls in the fashion house of Christian Dior - a little-known, but considered a promising couturier. The selection was to take place at the fashion designer's house, where Alla, wearing her best dress and high-heeled shoes, arrived at exactly the appointed time.
To the surprise of the girl, in the spacious house of Monsieur Dior, complete ruin was waiting for her — there was an overhaul and workers were scurrying everywhere. After chatting a little with the builders, Alla went home, being sure that her friend had messed up something with the time or place.
Imagine her surprise when a few days later a phone call rang in her apartment and the secretary of the Fashion House Christian Dior informed her that she had been hired. It turns out that Alla passed the casting without knowing it — Dior himself was among the workers, dressed in overalls, and it was with him that the girl exchanged a few phrases.
Simplicity, modesty and exotic oriental beauty immediately conquered the fashion designer and Dior immediately decided that Alla Ilchun needed his fashion house like air. From that moment on, everything in the life of the former dishwasher changed. She was waiting for constant fitting, classes with choreographers, photo shoots and many screenings.
Each exit of Alla Ilchun was guaranteed to be a success and very soon Dior began to call the girl his lucky mascot. The most famous movie and pop stars were ready to buy the clothes that Ilchun showed immediately after the show.
The success of the couturier's favorite model was quite understandable. The girl had incredible grace and was feminine and graceful. Oriental facial features on the catwalk in the 50s were rare, but seeing the success, Alla, many models tried to give their appearance Asian features. The fashion for this style has survived to the present day, but today no one remembers that it began more than half a century ago with a model of Kazakh origin Alla Ilchun.
At work, Alla gave her all and she had absolutely no free time to devote to herself or arrange a personal life. But then fate intervenes again. At one of the photo shoots, Ilchun meets Mike de Dulmen, a photographer who often worked for Dior. It is possible that it was mutual love at first sight — they found each other and soon got married. After a while, Alla gave her husband two sons.
Cooperation of Alla Ilchun and Christian Dior lasted 10 years, until the couturier's death. When the master died, the model was invited to Yves Saint Laurent, where she continued her successful career. Alla left the modeling business on her own initiative when she noticed the first signs of age on her face.
One of the last pictures of Alla Ilchun
She certainly wanted to remain in the memory of those who knew her from the catwalk and photo shoots young and spectacular. It's hard to say that the model who finished her career has lost a lot — in 20 years, Ilchun's waist circumference has increased from 47 to 49 cm, and her face was still beautiful. But it was no longer the face of a young girl, but of a mature woman.
Unlike many other models, after completing her career, Alla Ilchun no longer succumbed to persuasion and never appeared on the pages of fashion glossy magazines or TV screens. She kept her word and left, remaining young and beautiful for everyone.The former muse of the great Christian Dior simply disappeared — she led such a secretive lifestyle that no one knew where and how her life path ended. In 2018, Berlin Irishev, chairman of the Association of Kazakhs in France, discovered a wonderful portrait of Alla Ilchun, by Leon Zeitlen, in one of the Paris antique salons.
Berlin Irishev and the portrait of Alla Ilchun
Irishev bought the painting and brought it home to tell his countrymen about the life of this wonderful woman. This is the only portrait of Ilchun painted from life. Later it was returned to France and it took its rightful place in the Berlin Irishev collection.
The chairman of the Association of Kazakhs really wanted to learn as much as possible about the life of Alla and he managed to find her son Mark. From him Irishev learned the story of the last years of the model's life, which he still keeps secret. It will be told in a film that will soon be presented to the general public. It will reveal many secrets of this amazing woman, who in her life managed to be Cinderella, the warrior and muse of the greatest fashion designer in history.