04 July 2011

Couture Week Begins: Christian Dior Report

The Dior couture collection was one of the most highly anticipated shows of the week. The first without designer John Galliano at the helm, it was the head of studio, Bill Gaytten, and his senior colleague Susanna Venegas who took the final bow on behalf of the Christian Dior team. There were other familiar faces present. Jeremy Healey, long time collaborator with John Galliano was doing the music. Stephen Jones was, again, doing the hats. But these were tenuous links to an era that is clearly over.

Since Galliano’s departure under a cloud last spring, rumour is all there has been to go on regarding the future of the house. Speculation as to who would take over has ranged from Alexander Mc Queen’s Sarah Burton, to Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz to Azzedine Alaia. There was also talk that since the troubled Galliano had spent increasingly less time at the studio, his creative team was perfectly capable of running things without him and perhaps a replacement wasn’t necessary at all.

One thing was clear from today’s show. The House of Christian Dior needs a designer. The winter couture collection was an understudy performance. Galliano’s team, who will have labored under pressure that can only be imagined these past few months, delivered a performance that could only echo the theatrical bravado of the absent diva. From the very first outfit the thing that was most striking about this show was what was missing. 

This was Dior, but diminished. The lights somehow seemed less bright, the hair and make up less polished, the styling less assured, the workmanship (which, less face it, should remain constant) less confident, the models less glamorous, the staging less exciting.

The collection was a tribute to the rose and that theme was worked out in mille feuille layers of pink, lavender and vanilla silk organza fashioned into full knee length skirts with nipped waists topped with curvy short sleeved jackets decorated in leather or mirrored mosaic embroideries. That curvy silhouette is classic Dior silhouette that harking back to the New Look days of the post war era. But the show notes explained that the graphic prints referenced disparate architectural heroes such as Ettore Sottsass, Frank Gehry and Jean Michel Frank  and somehow it felt as if the head had taken precedence where Galliano would always have lead with heart. It seemed at times more of an intellectual exercise that lacked the romantic passion Galliano made part of his signature.

The collection segued into an evening wear section reminiscent of the Bohemian luxury of Talitha Getty in Marrakech in the 70’’s with rainbow coloured kaftan dresses before falling back into what was pure Galliano territory, a finale of full blown over the top evening dresses. But somehow this didn’t quite peak.

We all know we need to get over what has happened and move on. But this show made it clear that John Galliano has left a chasm at Dior HQ.

- Paula Reed in Paris


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