Christian Dior: Haute Couture

Designer: John Galliano

Fall 05
A black-draped horse-drawn carriage arrived through the gates of a ruined Edwardian garden where cobwebs festooned broken statues, fallen chandeliers, and clumps of lily of the valley. Lo! It's the ghost of Madame Dior arriving with her little sailor-suited boy, Christian, whose birthday fell 100 years ago.

Fall 06
Let us not be so prosaic as to ask exactly what Joan of Arc, Siouxsie Sioux, Botticelli, and the forties French film actress Arletty may have to do with one another—we've arrived in the parallel universe known as John Galliano's Christian Dior. So, on with the show!

Spring 07
What psychological process did it take to lift John Galliano to the extraordinary place of brilliance he reached—or rather, rediscovered—in his Spring couture? Everything about the Dior collection—inspired, he said, "by Pinkerton's affair with Cio-Cio San, Madame Butterfly"—reconfirmed his unique talent to evoke beauty, sensitivity, narrative, and emotion in a fashion show.

Spring 08
Who else could open a supposed treatise on Symbolist painters (quick, log onto Wikipedia!) with a blast of Led Zeppelin, gigantic overblown shapes, eye-watering color, and a whole lotta bling? Why, only John Galliano in his haute couture mode, of course.

Fall 08
In a way, it was a classic: combining the indelible fifties inspiration of Lisa Fonssagrives, Dior mannequin and wife of Irving Penn, and that of the new model of French conservative chic, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Those two streams of thought merged into a collection John Galliano called "fresh couture—restrained and refined."

w / John Galliano

Spring 09
There are only two questions anyone is asking Paris couturiers this season: "What are your inspirations?" followed swiftly by, "And what do you think about the recession?" John Galliano's answers were "Flemish painters and Monsieur Dior," and to the point, "There's a credit crunch, not a creative crunch. Of course, everyone is being more careful with their discretionary purchases. I am. But it's our job to make people dream, and to provide the value in quality, cut, and imagination."

[pics: (style.com) (images.google.com)]
[reviews: Sarah Mower @ style.com]

Haute couture (French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking") refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.

For more than a century, couture has been emblematic of the triumph of costume and fashion. It represents the fusion of fashion—the modern entity that combines novelty and synergy with personal and social needs—and costume—the arts of dressmaking, tailoring, and crafts constituent to apparel and accessories.

What's the Big Deal with Haute Couture?
Superior fabrics, dyes and trimmings go hand-in-hand with exquisite workmanship to realise a designer's dream. A whole team of people will work on one garment, cutting, sewing and hand stitching details. Haute couture's offering of distinction in design and technique remains a compelling force, one even more potent when in many areas of the industry, quality has atrophied.

In our 'wear it once, throw it away' society, buying haute couture might be seen by the super-rich as an investment, akin with buying great art. It remains completely unaccountable to cost, but it's target audience hardly needs to reach for the price tag. There is also a veil of mystery surrounding haute couture: The women who regularly buy it do not advertise themselves, while the fashion houses will not reveal their client lists.

So who does buy it?
Traditionally, only wealthy private clients were able to gain an audience with the fashion houses, never mind afford the clothes. Not everyone can fund their fashion addiction when the cost of dresses would bankrupt a small nation. Simply put, wearing haute couture is an aspirational symbol of power and prestige reserved for those for whom money is no object. The strange thing is that the some of the people buying to wear, as opposed to borrowing for public appearances (see Carla Bruni and any number of actresses on the red carpet), are the wives of Saudi Arabian billionaires whom no-one's ever heard of.

More significantly, the notoriety and prestige of haute couture fashion is actually part of a carefully executed business strategy. They have the unique ability to generate tremendous publicity for a design house - and that almost always leads to higher sales in the designer's ready-to-wear collections, which can often include simplified, more affordable versions of couture pieces. The more outrageous the piece, the more likely the front page newspaper splash. The luxury kudos also filters down to their cheaper products like cosmetics or perfume which are then sold to the masses, bringing in enormous piles of lovely cash. Which is the whole point really isn't it?

Secret World of Haute Couture
Margy Kinmonth takes a journey from Paris to New York and California to meet both designers and customers in this much talked about but little explained pocket of the fashion industry. Haute couture’s traditional American customers are getting old and dying off now and fewer wealthy young women are taking their place to ensure its survival. She discovers how much has changed and surprisingly how much has stayed the same in this story of decadent decline.

"If you're thin enough to wear the dress the model wore, you get it at 30% discount - otherwise, it has to be custom made and sold at full haute couture price."

"Haute couture is a wearable form of collectible art; it's as important or as unimportant as drinking the finest wine or driving the fastest car."

Behind the Scenes of Haute Couture Fashion Week - SS 07
For Morgane, her job is a constant uncertainty:
I know of girls that have been canceled - they were in line just before the podium, made up, hairdressed, amongst all the other girls and they were canceled...at the last moment.
In the modeling world, nothing's ever sure and every detail counts.

They All Adore Couture
At last night's Oscar ceremony, there was one trend that seemed to be more interesting than any of the others, and that was the reemergence of couture. Just about every major presenter and nominee was wearing a one-of-a-kind piece, and in the age of "recession" and "downsizing," it was nice to see the stars doing all out glamour. Here are my favorites of the night.