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The gauntlet has been thrown down. In a spectacular showing of extravagance and audacity, John Galliano on Monday night took the notion that low-key and easy-breezy is the way to go for resort and tore it to shreds. Or rather, he jacquard-ed, jeweled, feathered, retro-ed and coiffed it to the hilt, while sending the message that cruise chez Christian Dior is far from calm.
Once again, Galliano chose to unveil this particular collection in New York. But unlike last year, when he sent out a perfectly fine but ultratame, Americanized lineup, here was an exuberant feast worthy of the season’s now widely accepted status as the year’s biggest single seller at retail. The show featured a riotously colorful, lavish amalgam of Vreeland-era styling that combined shades of Marrakech, Babe Paley and house iconography presented against the backdrop of a star-studded front row — Dior perfume face Charlize Theron, Penélope Cruz, Kylie Minogue, Ellen Pompeo and can’t-stay-home-stripper Dita Von Teese (see Fashion Scoops, opposite page) — and the gorgeous vistas provided from the 50th floor of 7 World Trade Center.
All of which made for a remarkable, controversial show. Fashion-wise, fabulousness reigned, although some will surely knock the sky-high retro quotient, not confined to the beauty alone. But with plenty of innocuously charming little dresses out there, do we really need more from so masterful a creator as Galliano? So let him indulge himself with chichi hobble dresses or a grande dame hostess ensemble in sumptuous blue-and-silver brocade (not to mention jeweled marabou-trimmed coats over bikinis). Yet, let’s not overlook the real-clothes quotient. Prices aside, and these are up there, Galliano offered plenty of dazzlers, albeit for high-profile gals: vibrant suits with swingy or tulip skirts, lean constructed dresses including a bow-front strapless beauty, a jewel-neck smock frock and floaty Talitha Getty regalia. And oh, yes, gorgeous handbags. No one, however, could make a runway-to-reality argument for one particularly outrageous shoe style, a stiletto balanced on several ball fixtures attached to the soles. The shoes proved so treacherous that, after the model Milana Bogolepova fell several times, a guard had to help her off the runway and backstage, where she was found teary-eyed after the show.
Of greater significance than the rhetorical matter of whether fashion needs more silly shoe sculptures is the issue of how resort should be presented. On Friday evening in what promises to be another extravaganza, Karl Lagerfeld will present Chanel cruise at the Santa Monica Airport in Los Angeles. Last year, after six long weeks of sundry presentations, WWD surveyed the industry for opinions on whether, given the significance of the season, resort should be condensed into a more formal collections season, with houses showing either on the runway or in alternative presentations. Many designers and executives noted that, for some companies, even a small third show would prove prohibitively costly. Some also predicted that formal shows could take resort down the path of spring and fall, with entertainment-editorial considerations trumping the “real clothes” essence of the season.
But clearly, such concerns don’t register at Dior. This is one of fashion’s great powerhouses creatively, financially and historically. For now, at least, Galliano — and presumedly Messrs. Arnault and Toledano — want to remind us of that multitiered might at every turn.