2008 January 22
Dior - Paris Couture Spring 2008
(PARIS) John Galliano's directives for the models backstage at his Christian Dior show Monday included the exclamations: "Very high couture!" "Make strong shapes!" "Very couture-y poses!" and equated to what was a fascinating, not to mention extraordinary collection, that forewent all the theatrical hype for pure, unadulterated, lust-worthy fashion. In other words, discretion need not apply.
John Singer Sargent's "Madame X," the painting of Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau that caused a scandalous uproar when he painted her with a strap falling down--thus exposing part of her bosom--served as the first touchpoint of seduction for Galliano. "He refused to paint the strap back on and eventually it was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where the strap was put back on," Galliano added backstage following the show.
A mix of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Guess Who's "American Woman" blasted through the Bois de Boulogne venue as models paraded out in 40 sculptural works of art that mesmerized, mystified, and defied the world's potential plight of recession--fitting, given Sargent's own blatant disregard for conformity. Dresses, jackets, and skirts shouted in full Technicolor from the farthest and highest hills while the jaw-dropping embroideries were almost too painstakingly beautiful to continue watching (but boy did we).
From "Madame X," Galliano's woman--complete with hairdos straight out of Diana Vreeland's Vogue--was transformed from symbolic paintings into a chimera, the monster depicted as an animal with the head of a lion, the body of a she-goat, and the tail of a dragon. Only there was nothing malicious here, particularly with the intricate origami pleats and folds, sculpted roses that were stunning, and voluminous skirts, save for the inability by most women who can afford his creations to actually wear them in their privileged lives. Like many of Galliano's creations for Dior couture, and like artworks by Klimt and Gustave Moreau that also served as inspiration, the results are more at home displayed behind glass rather than paired with Cinderella-inspired glass slippers for a night out.
They say first impressions are what matter most. At Dior, the last impressions--or what one sees on the backs of these garments--is without a doubt just as vital. Inspired by early-19th century and 20th century perfume bottles, their sculpted, embroidered, and embellished back paneling--a clear-cut homage to the Symbolists of the last century--were a literal feast for the eyes, with enough surface texture to give Mars a run for its money. But how much can one devour without the need to purge?