Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?: Dior Spring 2008 Couture

There is but one House of Dior, the fashion fiefdom of John Galliano and Galliano's massive sense of the operatic. There is also Christian Dior the brand (in the actual marketplace it is all Christian Dior Couture), which comprises everything else. The brand does a tremendous business in fragrance and cosmetics. Within the fragrance division, the brand is divided into the classic and the contemporary.

Where not discontinued, certain of the classic Dior fragrances (Miss Dior, Diorling, Diorama, Diorella, Diorissimo, Dioressence) are olfactory representatives of the New Look and its exaggerated femininity. At the other end of the spectrum, the contemporary scents (Addict, J'Adore, Miss Dior Cherie, and the Poison quintet) are designed for younger women. This youthful customer is unlikely to wear Galliano's haute couture or prêt-à-porter, unlike the original clients of Dior's New Look who wore the sharply elegant Miss Dior with their hourglass suits. The modern fragrances are one vehicle by which Dior is able to extend its brand beyond its couture clients.

Dior Addict is a separate brand within the group of modern fragrances. There are also Addict lip products. The Addict subdivision is designed to be hipper, more urban, and more aggressive than the rest of the beauty/fragrance products. More than a mere collection of glosses and eau de parfum, it's both a mindset and the rock-and-roll arm of Dior beauty.

Galliano's Spring 'o8 couture collection is classic Dior homage inhaled through Addict's grittier, post-modern straw. The evolutionary trajectory includes waypoints at New Look volume and pose; New Look millinery, St. Laurent trapeze, and Bohan asceticism. The collection was rendered in a color palette that might be described as radioactive. Against a crepuscular cobalt backdrop, it glowed.

Officially, the design inspirations were the John Singer Sargent portrait Madame X and the gold adornment of painter Gustav Klimt. Klimt, a Viennese Symbolist, excelled at gilding female eroticism. His subjects often had an attitude of condescension or remove, something they share with the Sargent work. Galliano evoked Klimt through extravagant gold embroidery and decoration that recalled Expectation, Medicine, and the oil and gold of The Kiss.

As originally painted, Madame X's decorative shoulder strap had eased off her right shoulder. The references to the painting were demonstrated in both design and contrast. Bodices cut in a manner similar to Madame X's infamous gown were foil to the cool luminescence of pale skin.

Galliano's aesthetic can be somewhat predictive, in this case as though it is sounding the death knell of the bourgeois. This was a collection of shapes based on a kinder, gentler and more democratic past. The exploration of volume and perversion of shape viz classic Dior gave the older designs a slight disenfranchisement, as if to deprive them of the catholic austerity they once possessed. Revived in nearly insolent color, they were electrified with Addict's Led Zep bass line.

Although not as extreme as prior collections, there was no feeling of a lowest common denominator or of pandering to the balefulness of the new moderation. As expected, there is a bold and distinct separation between Dior couture and that of other houses. Here, where Galliano is rewriting the house's iconic history to suit his own dramatic palate, he seems once again outside the question of who will guard the guards.

9 comments:

bronwyn said...

You always manage to phrase things so well. I think this sentence describes the essence of the collection so perfectly "Galliano's Spring 'o8 couture collection is classic Dior homage inhaled through Addict's grittier, post-modern straw." I like the Klimt inspiration in the collection very much. I did a small paragraph on the collection - I'd be interested in your comments on what I wrote, especially taking into context the McLuhan article below.

susie_bubble said...

The references that you pinpoint and the background of the collection makes me want to love it.... but the truth is I feel there is sort a step too far into nostalgia that puts me off... which is such an odd thing for me to say! But there it is...

WendyB said...

Galliano's sense of color is amazing.

Suzanna Mars said...

SB, I think in light of what has been shown elsewhere that you have made a good point. There isn't really much development (just less ostentation)--but to what degree is it incumbent upon a designer to evolve?

This is why I said Galliano is outside that mix--you can see evolution everywhere else, if not of one's own work but also adaptively within an aesthetic.

Libertygirl said...

Oh those scents! My childhood... LLG xx

Suzanna Mars said...

LLG, Miss Dior is just about my signature scent. It's efficient and sexy--how many things can we say that about?

Blue Floppy Hat said...

I love Miss Dior Cherie, maybe because it smells like toffee :)
That said, I'm sitting the fence about whether I like this collection or not- sometimes when I look at the pictures it reminds me of too-decorative wedding cakes, but then that's John Galliano's forte...

riz said...

Okay, here's nothing new, but I despise Galliano. As a couturier, his construction is fine, more than fine, excpetional at times, but what I cannot stand is his 'imagination' if you can call it that. Perhaps its his method I so dislike - the cultural cut and paste, the distasteful montage, this ethnic mishmash...the effect for me is a visual disaster, a cacophony so monstrous it simply repulses me to my very core...All this to say, your essay here is much more generous than I could ever be...

Suzanna Mars said...

I know you can't stand Galliano, Riz! Coming from a theatrical background, I can't help but be drawn to the overblown, larger-than-life presentation, regardless of pasticcio and origin.

Also, my fashion-formative years were during the overwrought eighties, so my eye is stuck in the cruder, more obvious aspects. Although I do appreciate subtlety and awareness, it is another generation for me, much like music.