Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Christian Dior Open Work

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John Galliano built a beautiful Christian Dior fall couture collection around the house’s iconic Bar jacket. He even brought an element of its shape into one of his tours de force.

Christian Dior: Two years ago John Galliano was having tea with Irving Penn when the photographer started telling tales about “his beloved wife Lisa Fonssagrives.”

Hardly a quantum leap to an haute homage, Galliano-style. Still, the designer had other motifs to get out of his system first, including last season’s inflationary tale that was big on pouffery, if not practicality. Did someone say counterpoint?

You bet, in multiple renderings of the Bar jacket. Only here that ultrashapely New Look essential was characteristically twisted, turned and toughened up. “Deconstructed sounds disrespectful,” Galliano noted before the show. “Let’s just say I’ve decontextualized [the jacket].” It became the focal point of a collection that, though lavish by most measures of the word, felt sedate chez Dior. It was also very pretty, and if it didn’t quite induce the audience awe of his biggest triumphs — most recently the Japanese-inspired collection for spring 2007 — it had another kind of reaction: Just days before the show, the directress of couture sales, who had obviously gotten a peek at something, was said to be giddy with glee.

Galliano opened with a white, boldly collared, full-skirted coat, cinched with a deep corset belt in high-contrast black patent, just to make the point, he said. Which is that this collection is all about construction, each look built on a “body,” a corseted foundation, some of which were partly visible under the undulations of inventive dégradé fabrics. The shapes: occasional hourglass sheaths countering the prevailing dresses and suits cut with that festive Fifties fit-and-flare, the skirts often in retro “crin,” Galliano’s take on the crinoline underskirts favored by the house founder. Evening followed the same motif, but more grandly, and with the addition of gorgeous tiered silks and tulles. As for the palette, plenty of black and white and lovely, wearable pastels.

Yet this was more than a retro romp. What started as an ode to the first great supermodel got cross-referenced with some elements of tough chic— namely serious studwork and ample doses of leather. This came not in the corset belts but, more subtly, in how-did-he-do-that embroideries and one killer number in white leather lace.

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