Friday, May 30, 2008

Dodie & Dior

Clockwise: Models Carla Bruni, Oluchi Onweagba, and Debra Shaw in Galliano’s Massai inspired creations from the début show; Rosekrans in a Galliano creation in 1995; Karen Mulder in a romantic ball gown from the Spring 1997 Dior collection; Suzanne Von Aichinger in a Chinoiserie inspired look from the show; John Galliano seated by the former empress of Iran Farah Diba at a banquet given by LVMH.

By the early 90’s the ready-to-wear shows seemed to have stolen couture’s thunder with more exciting presentations and designers. Some mumbled in the side wings that if couture’s anachronistic system did not change with the times, then the old dowager’s days would be numbered. One by one fashion houses bowed out of the game, closing down their couture divisions siting rising costs. But with the appointment of Alexander McQueen at Givenchy and Galliano at Dior (as well as Gaultier and Thierry Mugler throwing their hats into the ring), couture suddenly received a jolt of new creative blood.

During the Spring 1997 couture season guests streamed into the ballroom of Paris’ Grand Hotel for Galliano’s first couture collection for the House of Dior. Accustomed to seeing models speeding down the runway at a safe distance, the attendees were in for a visual treat. The ballroom had been transformed into a replica of Christian Dior’s 1940s showroom on Avenue Montaigne with 791 spindly gold chairs placed amongst exotic arrangements of some 4,000 roses. One by one the models descended the grand staircase and wafted through the audience, posing close enough for them to admire the craftsmanship of the Dior workrooms. Galliano’s vision of the new Dior woman was inspired by heavily beaded Massai warriors, Shanghai matrons from the 20’s and 30’s, and a series of romantic frothy tulle ball gowns, that looked like mille-feuille confections spun out of sugar.

A few old-time Dior customers were not amused by the young designer’s efforts, a minor point when one considers the standing ovation he received at the end of his show (from clients such as Rosekrans, Ann Bass, and Mouna al-Ayoub), including the string of new clients he would attract. The New York Times headline the next day ran, "Among Couture Debuts, Galliano’s is the Stand Out."
© THE POLYGLOT (all rights reserved) CHICAGO-PARIS

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