Without John Galliano, the Dior show goes on
With the swishing of Karlie Kloss' cashmere cloak on the runway, the $28-billion Dior fashion house proved Friday that the show will go on, even without its flamboyant designer of nearly 15 years, John Galliano.
At the Rodin Museum, the crowd outside waiting to get in was so thick with looky-loos and TV cameras, it was almost impossible to squeeze through the door.
Photos: The fashions of Galliano for Dior
Inside, the well-manicured gardens and noble sculptures was a striking contrast to the frenzy. The show was held in a tent with a runway 196 feet in length -- more than half the size of a football field -- with an elegant mirrored backdrop and chandeliers evoking an old-school couture salon.
It was packed with more than 1,500 people, and the front row was star-studded, but not as much as usual. Celebrity guests included French actress Melanie Laurent ("Inglourious Basterds"), model Natalia Vodianova, and Leagh Lezark, one-half of DJ duo the Misshapes. The brand's best shoppers didn't stay away, filing in toting their quilted, top-handle Lady Dior handbags.
In a demonstration of cunning stagecraft, Dior executive Sidney Toledano made a statement on the runway before the show, calling the events of the last week "an exceptional tragedy," and praising "les petits mains" in the atelier who pressed on to finish the collection.
The collection was inspired by "dandyism of the English romantic poets," according to show notes, which translated into velvet knickers and waistcoats, lace bloomers, short taffeta skirts, boxy tweed jackets, ruffled blouses and diaphanous Empire gowns. It was an average collection for the house. Nothing surprising.
After the last model stepped out, it would normally have been Galliano's big moment. More than any other designer, he relished his runway bow as an opportunity to dress up in an outlandish costume of his own, strike a pose, and strut all the way down the runway -- always with bodyguards at his side. (Most designers peek out from backstage and wave.)
Only this season, there wasn't a spotlight shining on an astronaut, swashbuckling pirate or Napoleon costume. Instead, "les petits mains" from Dior atelier's design team came out to a roaring standing ovation.
Galliano, who was dismissed from the $28-billion luxury brand on Tuesday, will stand trial in a French criminal court after three people filed complaints alleging that he hurled anti-Semitic insults at them. If convicted on the charge of publicly insulting someone because of their origin, he could face up to six months in prison and a fine of roughly $39,000.
In the meantime, the designer has left France for a rehabilitation facility, presumably for alcohol addiction.
On Wednesday, he issued a statement apologizing "unreservedly," but also denying the claims.
"I completely deny the claims made against me and have fully cooperated with the police investigation."
"I was subjected to verbal harassment and an unprovoked assault when an individual tried to hit me with a chair having taken violent exception to my look and my clothing. For these reasons I have commenced proceedings for defamation and the threats made against me."
The designer's John Galliano collection (in which Christian Dior has a majority stake), originally on the Paris fashion-show calendar for Sunday, will now be shown in a more informal presentation format.
The venerable haute couture house of Christian Dior is the go-to for French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's ladylike suits, and is credited with putting Paris fashion back on the map after World War II, with the famous New Look.
Dior initially suspended Galliano, but when video surfaced on the Internet, apparently showing an incident involving Galliano, who appears to be drunk, taunting two off-screen women, saying he "loved Hitler" and that their ancestors should be "gassed … and dead," termination precedures moved swiftly.
Galliano, 50, was born in Gibraltar, raised in Britain and is a graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design. He was named designer at the LVMH-owned Givenchy label in 1995. In late 1996, he was named to the top spot at Christian Dior, which owns a 42.4% stake in LVMH, the French luxury conglomerate that includes Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon Champagnes and other interests.
Galliano is responsible for helping to rebuild Dior's fortunes, and his shows for the label — drawing from influences as disparate as geishas, Pocahontas and the homeless — were among the most hotly anticipated events on the Paris show calendar. In 2007, he celebrated Dior's 60th anniversary with a blockbuster collection and party at the Palace of Versailles attended by a slew of celebrities (Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba among others), several of whom have promoted the brand in ad campaigns.
But although the brand has enjoyed financial success for the last several seasons, largely from accessory, cosmetic and fragrance sales — with revenue of about $28 billion in 2010 — Galliano"s collections for Dior have not been influential in moving fashion forward for some time. Indeed in some seasons, his theatrical bows were the most memorable part of the experience.
Possible successors for the label could include Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and relative unknown Haider Ackermann. Dior has declined comment on the next chapter.
-- Booth Moore in Paris
Photos: The Dior staff and runway. Credit: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times