Friday, May 30, 2008

Dodie Rosekrans-Part III

Left: Crinoline clad models waiting behind the scenes in the tent at the Louvre, where Galliano presented his groundbreaking Spring 1994 show inspired by the Russian Princess Lucretia. Center: Model Michelle Hicks running down the runway in mock fear at Galliano’s show, her voluminous ballgown trailing behind her. Right: Dodie Rosekrans receiving la médaille d’or de Grand Donateur de l’Etat, by French minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres in 2005.

In 1993, when he was struggling financially, she helped him put together his show inspired by "Princess Lucretia.” At a time when minimalism ruled fashion, Galliano’s collection was pure fantasia. Underneath a tent pitched in the Louvre’s Cour Carré, he sent out Russian princesses in voluminous crinoline ball gowns racing down the runway in terror, as they were chased by the sounds of “Ride of the Valkyaries.” The show caused an immediate sensation and catapulted Galliano onto the Paris fashion scene. As befits someone whose been described as falling within the old money camp, Rosekrans was so discreet about her financial support of Galliano that very few were aware of it at the time.

The following season Galliano also gained the support of Paris socialite Sao Schlumberger, one of his earliest couture clients, when she lent her sumptuous art filled mansion as a venue for his Autumn/Winter 1994 collection. Rosekrans, who attended the show, remembers that moment vividly as a turning point in Galliano’s career. In a collection entitled Back from the Brink the designer recreated the atmosphere of the old couture salons. The models (including Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbel, and Kate Moss, who did the show for free) walked amongst the seated audience in exquisitely tailored pieces influenced by 1920’s flappers and Japanese Geishas.

Furthermore having Rosekrans’ and Schlumberger’s stamp of approval during Galliano’s early career did not hurt his chances of being noticed by some of the fashion industry’s biggest players. At that time Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH, had been searching for a new designer to head his most recent acquisition, the House of Givenchy. It was also during this period that he began to notice a number of couture clients making the pilgrimage to Galliano’s small studio tucked away in Paris’ Bastille quarter, an area known more for its gritty bars than glamorous couture salons. On seeing his work, Arnault offered him the position at Givenchy, where Galliano designed two collections before moving on to become the artistic director at Dior. Since his debut collection for Dior, Rosekrans has not missed a single show and has continued to influence his work for the past 15 years.

When asked which is his favorite piece in Rosekrans’ wardrobe, Galliano's answer is, "a hand-painted electric-blue Dior ball dress she wore to a ball in Venice." In fact Rosekrans is no stranger to throwing a ball or two. She and her late husband, who died of a heart attack in 2001, were known for their fun-loving ways. This included throwing lavish parties for family, friends and visiting French dignitaries, as well as collecting art and supporting museums and music programs around the world, from the de Young and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Whether it’s the Arabian Nights fantasy she threw for her granddaughter's debut or dinner parties where guests are always met by a butler proffering ice-cold Champagne, Rosekrans’ invitations have always been the most coveted. This is partly due to the fact that she applies the same diverse aesthetic in choosing clothes, to putting together a guest list, which usually includes a mixture of high and low that yields the unexpected. This may explain why she herself is considered one of the nicest ladies on the society circuit. "She's terribly grand but terribly down to earth," said fashion illustrator Gladys Perint Palmer, the director of fashion program at San Francisco's Academy of Art University. "She doesn't give herself airs." Rosekrans herself has said " I always wanted a certain kind of life and that's what I have. A life with interesting people, among them intellectuals and people with artistic talents. A varied life is interesting. I love meeting new people."
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