Dior Haute Couture Fall 2011: Heritage and the Future

Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt. PARIS--An explosion of green and blue lights--as well as a thunderous roar of music--signaled the start of the Dior fall couture show yesterday afternoon. Taking place inside a small tent at the garden of the Musée Rodin, the show officially opened Paris fall couture season. The streamlined stage décor--a simple sculpture by set designer Michael Howell, rather than a full on mise en scène like a maritime port or a tulip garden--was the first sign of a sharp break from the past. Indeed, the house was staging its first couture show without longtime designer John Galliano. But that was not all that had changed.
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Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt. PARIS--An explosion of green and blue lights--as well as a thunderous roar of music--signaled the start of the Dior fall couture show yesterday afternoon. Taking place inside a small tent at the garden of the Musée Rodin, the show officially opened Paris fall couture season. The streamlined stage décor--a simple sculpture by set designer Michael Howell, rather than a full on mise en scène like a maritime port or a tulip garden--was the first sign of a sharp break from the past. Indeed, the house was staging its first couture show without longtime designer John Galliano. But that was not all that had changed.
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Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.

PARIS--An explosion of green and blue lights--as well as a thunderous roar of music--signaled the start of the Dior fall couture show yesterday afternoon. Taking place inside a small tent at the garden of the Musée Rodin, the show officially opened Paris fall couture season. The streamlined stage décor--a simple sculpture by set designer Michael Howell, rather than a full on mise en scène like a maritime port or a tulip garden--was the first sign of a sharp break from the past.

Indeed, the house was staging its first couture show without longtime designer John Galliano. But that was not all that had changed.

A black and white geometric-embroidered jacket with a multi-layered pastel chiffon cape--forming a rose on one shoulder--a black and white embroidered jacket with yellow, green and blue organza twirled into a circular rose petal-shaped skirt, and a tiered rose, yellow and green chiffon jacket were the opening looks. They evoked the old shapes and slick surfaces of Ettore Sottsass’s architecture and industrial designs, particularly the pieces of furniture and lighting from the Memphis Group.

Then came other references to the architecture of Frank Gehry, whose titanium Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao inspired a silk jacket with metallic and bronze glass sequins, as well as an orange glass silk skirt pair with a tan pleated chiffon and bronze sequined silk jacket. Interior designers Jean-Michel Frank and Jean Dunand inspired the green and blue silk strapless and wood pattern column dresses.

There were also references to Marc Bohan--the designer who took over the house of Dior after Yves Saint Laurent--in hand-painted, pleated chiffon dresses in Murano glass patterns. But as Grace Jones’ disco version of "La Vie En Rose" played softly and the finale of ball gowns appeared, many featuring large rose embroideries, it did not evoke the vibrant hand-painted tulips and floral encrusted dresses of last fall’s show (which took place at the same tent in July 2010).

More so than the ready to wear show last March, there is ample evidence of the significance of Mr. Galliano’s work with the Dior’s couture atelier in guiding their profound commitment to craftsmanship with a specific vision and direction. I remember at times in the past when leaving a Dior couture show I would hear some people decry that what they had just witnessed was simply too much--the Hobo show, the Egyptian show, the Freudian fetishism show or the Matrix show in particular.

Before Galliano's long time assistant Bill Gaytten and his assistant Susanna Venegas took the bow, Karlie Kloss walked the runway in a grey ball gown, posing sideways to show the layers of the organza clown-neck cape and cone hat as the lights began to fade back to black. M. On the way out of this show, I heard no such outcry like in past years. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Of all the references dragged into this show--from architecture inspirations to the allusions to the house’s own past--one poignant reference left out was Mr. Galliano's ability to make Dior relevant in contemporary culture with breathtaking shows that combined imagination and technical skills. Remember that frigid cold January 2007 on the outskirts of Paris where he staged an imaginary trip to old imperial Japan, with snow falling and Cio-Cio San play by Shalom Harlow? That too is now part of the fabric of Dior’s heritage.

**Photos by Imaxtree.