PARIS — Last week, Las Vegas-worthy feather headdresses and gleaming metallic pregnancy breastplates paraded down Christian Dior’s couture runway.
On Wednesday, the French fashion house boasted that its sales in the first half soared 44 percent to $218.4 million — and that it turned a profit.
According to Dior president Sidney Toledano, the figures should blast away any lingering doubts that John Galliano’s creative prowess is translating into major business at a time when many brands struggle to eke out single-digit growth.
“If the economy were better, we would have doubled our sales this year,” Toledano told WWD in an interview. “In spite of the economy, you have people willing to spend, including in the U.S.”
Spend indeed. Sales at Christian Dior’s network of 130 boutiques were up by more than 50 percent at the end of June. Toledano said first-half sales of leather goods and footwear catapulted more than 60 percent with ready-to-wear advancing in excess of 40 percent.
“Yes, we do sell ready-to-wear,” he declared with a chuckle. “In fact, the rate of sell-through, before the sales, was over 80 percent.”
Toledano’s sheepish response and somewhat defensive tone is understandable. Since Christian Dior named Galliano its couturier five years ago, legions have been puzzled by some of his out-there propositions for such an august house. Tramps, contortion artists and nuns in bondage have all paraded down the Dior runway in recent years.
But the brand has received enormous attention and Galliano has proven he can translate his couture extravaganzas into saleable products. Dior’s “Saddle” and “Street Chic” bags were all born on the runway, as were the popular “J’adore Dior” T-shirts. To wit: the house expanded Galliano’s creative powers to its advertising and beauty products. It also brought in designer Hedi Slimane to remake its men’s wear image — all the while spurring some creative in-house competition with Galliano.
On Wednesday, Toledano said the Dior brand is demonstrating strong momentum worldwide, with first-half sales up 80 percent in Japan, 63 percent in Asia, 33 percent in the U.S. and 93 percent in Europe, excluding Paris, where sales advanced 31 percent.
Toledano noted that some of the increase is attributable to the expansion of Dior’s network of directly owned stores. Since the beginning of the year, 14 have been added, including locations in Madrid, Rome and Brussels. But even within existing boutiques, sales are ahead more than 30 percent, he said.
He also noted that Dior, which operated at break-even last year due to heavy investments in retail, is projected to be profitable this year.
Not that he’s resting on his laurels. “Getting products to the market on time is essential,” he said. “We’re not looking to have waiting lists. Our fall ready-to-wear has been in stores since June — and it’s selling well.”
Toledano also noted that Dior will maintain its advertising profile with a fall campaign shot by Nick Knight at a time when some brands are deeply cutting their ad placements.
Also, he said prices of Dior products would not be affected by the strength of the euro, which boosts the cost of European goods in America.
“For the moment, we are trying to continue to gain market share in the U.S. so we will keep our products competitive there,” he said. “We are one of the few companies having a good business. I’m confident.”