Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt PARIS--A throng of people blocked the entrance to yesterday's Dior show at the Musée Rodin. It was young Chinese actress Lin Peng, posing for pictures at the front gate instead of inside the courtyard. “Over here! Smile! This way please!” the photographers screamed. But no one seemed to know who she was beyond the fact that a posse of handlers escorted her and therefore she had to be a big celebrity. Once safely inside the grey tent, all was calm and there was an instant feeling of familiarity. The walls and the backdrops were exact reproductions of the paint and wall panel moldings of Dior’s Avenue Montaigne headquarters. If the décor of the tent was any indication of things to come, then surely the Dior fall 2012 collection, in spite of efforts to modernize and soften the house’s signatures (like a brown tweed less-structured version of the Bar jacket paired with a flowy tea-length skirt), remained quintessentially well Dior. Unlike the Dior couture show in January, where Dior’s heritage was dissected and displayed with incredible handiwork on rigid organza, this fall show unquestionably veered toward the more commercial elements that has sustained Dior’s sales since Galliano's scandalous departure last March. Sure, the light pink slightly pleated sheath dress belted at the waist or the printed charcoal long coat, were impeccable and will surely be bestsellers at the Dior stores around the globe. Ditto the grey Bar jacket with leather lapels--it can be worn just as easily with a pair of jeans as the long skirt it was shown with. But 'Where was the fashion?' I suppose was the question on everyone’s mind as we exited the tent. Certainly a tendency towards showing too many looks (56--one of the main drawbacks of the show) was a problem. A tighter edit would have surely helped. Still, there was something else. I went to the library recently to look at fashion magazines from the '50s and '60s to see how fashion was reported on then. The most noticeable difference between then and now is that then the focus was mainly on the clothes and how they were made and how to wear them. Trends were about the colors and fabrics and cuts of the clothes that readers could purchase at stores.
Today fashion has become an entertainment behemoth and you've gotta have a gimmick, as the song goes. And that has changed the perspective of how we view fashion now. Is it possible that we have gotten so used to wanting to see innovative fashion design at every show that we can no longer accept a show that’s just about clothes? It's a tough question to answer. In today's reality TV times, well-made clothes are surely too boring for an audience conditioned and addicted to fashion’s hype elements, especially in ready-to-wear. It’s funny, because Mr. Gaytten deployed this same, gimmick free back to basics approach for January couture that resulted in an opposite effect--it worked. I wish for this show he had taken some of the Dior elements and done something entirely different. That would have been surprising, but would that have rocked the boat too much? I have wonder if the actress Lin Peng or the customers who frequent Dior's stores around the world would care so much about the seemingly intentional lack of any avant-garde element in this show. Will they not buy the clothes because there was no snow or rain or Pharaohs or icebergs on the runway?
Sales for Dior under Gaytten remain strong. Let's see how it goes...