NEW YORK — The fashion world may be obsessed with Russia, India, China and Brazil, but the brass at Christian Dior still sees the U.S. as a land of opportunity. Which is why John Galliano brought his cruise collection to town on Tuesday night, where he held a splashy yet intimate event in the Magic Room in the LVMH Tower on 57th Street, followed by a dinner at the Four Seasons.
The show itself was tame by Galliano standards, sans fantastical theme, brooding Goth makeup and styling that requires major mental dissection to get to any given collection's core reality. Rather, the audience of 150 settled in for a lineup of polished clothes with a breezy attitude appropriate to this increasingly important season. "It's uptown, but not uptight," the designer said.
An apt, if terse, sound bite, as the clothes looked both chic, unself-conscious and decidedly American. They projected an off-handed simplicity via discreetly complicated cuts with tucks, folds and draping adding volume or, in the case of the sexier dresses, fluidity without bulk. Galliano heightened the interest with innovative fabrics, often in plays of matte versus shine. He laminated everything — silk, cotton, jersey, leather — adding ample shine in liquid metallics and abstract skyline embroideries. And he laced a mostly neutral palette with quirky corals, teals and greens, inspired by the work of René Gruau.
"Gruau was a great friend and illustrator of Mr. Dior," Galliano explained. "I really wanted to go back to the roots of Dior. Mr. Dior was one of the first designers to reinterpret what he did in France for the American market."
Today, playing to the American market is key to the house's overall strategy, according to chief executive officer Sidney Toledano. The firm recently tapped Patricia "Pat" Malone, a former president of Gucci America, as U.S. president and chief operating officer of Christian Dior, replacing Marla Sabo, who left the company last month amid speculation of underperforming U.S. sales, a notion that Toledano is quick to squelch. "It's doing very well," he said. "So far, it's strong double-digit growth."
Given the ever-evolving fashion calendar that's pushing earlier and earlier — and retail demand for a constant stream of new merchandise — the cruise/resort season has taken on something approaching mythic significance throughout the industry, especially in the U.S. According to Toledano, the new Dior collection is twice as large as that of two years ago, and will account for 40 percent of total spring sales. The collection shown in July, now called simply "spring" rather than "early spring," is projected at another 30 percent, with the October "runway" accounting for the balance."The [early] deliveries are so important for the U.S. market, more than any other region," Toledano said. "Time to market is a priority in the U.S. They optimize more than in Europe. But I think Europe will follow very soon. When they get deliveries from the vendors, they will see the sales improving."
On Monday, the reception area of Dior's corporate offices had been transformed into a temporary workshop. Twenty atelier employees were flown in from Paris to facilitate show fittings, and they were scurrying around making final adjustments to the runway samples. "It's been a superbly organized operation," Galliano noted. "We came with the collection, rolls of fabrics and an extra set of buttons in case anything went terribly wrong."
This has been Galliano's second trip to New York in two weeks. Earlier this month, he attended the opening gala of "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion" at the Costume Institute. This time, he has had scant opportunities in between fittings to enjoy the city, though he did manage to dine at the Spotted Pig restaurant and have lunch with Veronica Hearst and Jeff Koons at Hearst's apartment.
"Having come for AngloMania, I got really inspired again," he said. "It's important for young kids to go and see that magnificent art of the English painters, and to show them how inspiration can actually work. Some people don't get that an old painting can inspire this dress, a piece of music can inspire a dress. I loved the Gothic undertones."
His affinity for Goth was more than apparent in a dazzling accessory he wore — a mammoth ring with a diamond pavé lizard wrapped around a gold skull. The ring once belonged to the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, a lover of Marchesa Casati, who was painted by Boldini, "one of my muses," Galliano explained. Galliano found it on a trip to Venice.
But that striking bauble du jour aside, the designer seems to have had no problem reining in his wildly theatrical side for the season, once considered the ultimate commercial opportunity. "It was really breezy and cruise-y," he said of the creative process, noting that cruise is often a customer favorite, because its relatively low editorial presence makes it "slightly more exclusive, and ladies like that, too. Sometimes, if you see the dress over and over again in a magazine, it can put you off."The U.S. business accounts for 20 percent of Dior's overall business, and with Asia, presents the largest growth potential for the company. "A lot of this growth can come organically, because we are underpenetrated in key categories like ladies' shoes, handbags, [ready-to-wear] and fine jewelry," Malone said. "Then we have other categories we can build on top of, like watches and costume jewelry. There is a world of opportunities."
Accessories, she indicated, will be a major focus. Handbags are already the top sales category, said Toledano, pointing to the recent success of the Gaucho bag, and the ongoing stellar performance of Dior classics such as the Lady Dior handbag. That's not to say that rtw will take a backseat. "After couture, ready-to-wear is the image of [Dior]," Toledano offered. "But we did a tremendous business with handbags ... and shoes. And now we're starting with men's. The idea for Dior is to be strong in all categories."
Dior's own retail operations account for 80 percent of the total business worldwide, but there are no immediate plans for a major retail expansion in the U.S., where the brand currently has 22 freestanding boutiques and 22 leased areas within department or specialty stores. In North America, Dior also wholesales to stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Holt Renfrew.
"I think we are well positioned, and it's important to maintain the exclusiveness of the brand, Dior's mystique. The real volume growth will come from our own boutiques," Malone added.
Galliano, for his part, is scheduled to leave New York today. He contemplated extending his stay for two days, but the Cannes Film Festival beckoned. Though his affection for the big city has been rejuvenated in the past two weeks, he has no plans to treat New Yorkers to some of his more theatrical runway presentations. "I will keep doing that kind of defilé and haute couture in Paris, but here we present what we believe is important to America," he said. Could that mean he plans to be back on the Hudson in a year to present his next cruise efforts? "If you're nice to me," he quipped.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews