GALLIANO’S CYBER QUEST

Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — The case for selling fashion online isn’t dead yet, and the forces in favor of e-commerce just got the most unlikely of new superheros to come to their rescue — in the form of John Galliano.
While other fashion companies may be retrenching from the Internet, Galliano is going live today in a joint venture with LVMH’s eLuxury that is believed to be the first full designer collection created specifically for cyberspace.
Apart from its atypical distribution, the collection also marks a turning point for the designer in which it could well make the case that in addition to ready-to-wear, Galliano is capable of making good, sensible sportswear for young people — as it’s targeted to 25- to 34-year-old women.
It even has the makings of a hit among the teens of indulgent parents, with a Galliano tank top priced at $160, studded jeans for $195 or a swimsuit emblazoned with a Gothic print “Galliano’s Girl” on the behind for about $159.
They may not sound cheap to some shoppers, but they’re the kind of accessibly priced items from high-end, high-profile designers that fashion customers typically go manic for — witness the success of Marc Jacobs’s recent Marc by Marc Jacobs line. (In comparison, Galliano’s tweed print jeans for Christian Dior go for $575; his “J’adore Dior” T-shirts are $215.)
And the less-expensive Galliano items are only available online at eLuxury.com, which, if demand follows the supply, could make an interesting case for proponents of e-commerce.
Galliano, for one, is approaching the Internet with childlike curiosity, sitting at a laptop asking: “What is, ‘cookies?”‘ and “What does ‘stuff them’ mean?” to his colleagues from eLuxury during a preview of the Web site on Friday. But it only seemed that way, as he proceeded to describe the collection and its related “e-boutique” with a convincing argument for its prospects.
“We feel the Internet is the future, and we very much want to be a part of that,” Galliano said. “More and more people are logging on and buying things. I’m even set up on the Internet from home now.”
For the collection, Galliano and his team, working with the French company Mother on the design of the e-tail site, came up with a shopping experience based on an animated comic book, featuring a woman known now both as “Internet Girl” and “Galliano’s Girl” — a leggy brunette with a model’s proportions, a pixie nose and pointy chin.
Upon entering Galliano’s e-boutique through eLuxury.com, a viewer first sees a car crash through the window of a sushi restaurant, filmed in reverse, then a long pair of legs step out of the car and into a fictional John Galliano store (none yet exists in brick format). Inside, Internet Girl has four options: Evening chic, sportswear, accessories or daywear, each linking to a stylized room. There’s a dimly lit boudoir, where she tries on samples behind a semitransparent scrim; a locker room where she sits in bra, panties and stiletto knee-highs and the clothing options pop out of various lockers, and a swimming pool where Internet Girl has mischievously discarded her belongings in the pool — “it’s kind of like right after the party,” Galliano said.
“She’s going to go on many adventures,” he said. “She’s a little shy at the moment. I wanted this cartoon heroine to be in complete control of her destiny. I made her up, her eyes, her hair, her limbs.”
Well, the plot line might sound simple, and Internet Girl doesn’t even have a name yet, but Galliano promises more will come in the form of seasonal episodes. He’s just taking it slow in the beginning to gauge the reaction of users. “With any collection I work on, when I get commercial feedback is when I get the idea of which way to go with it,” he said.
What’s really interesting with this collection is that Galliano created it specifically with the Internet in mind, rather than designing a line and then deciding to put it on the Web. The shopping portal also was designed for speed and momentum. For instance:
Galliano designed using “Web safe” colors and fabrics — whites with black print, an orangish red, denim blue — that would translate accurately onto computer screens, “so that you almost know what you’ve ordered before you receive it,” he said. Colors that did not read seductively, like black or fabrics with shiny finishes, were dropped from the collection.
The line was conceived as “very Galliano, with an easy fit and popular price positioning,” said Valerie Hermann, president of Galliano. That could encourage online transactions since many customers are still reticent to make purchases without first trying on the clothes in the traditional retail format.
The line is only offered in sizes small, medium and large, but is geared toward customers of various proportions by using lightweight fabrics, bias cuts and stretch materials that are more accommodating to variances in body type.
The Web site was designed with comic book drawings, but the clothing was photographed and silhouetted over the animation, thereby giving the illusion of a third dimension and a more realistic appearance. The animation also allowed the e-boutique to be designed in a low resolution, making it more efficient to move between pages.
When items sell out, they will be removed from the Web site to avoid unfulfilled orders and disappointed customers.
Galliano also contracted a number of sportswear factories for the first time to handle production of some items, such as fleece and denim pieces, to make pricing more competitive.
“We didn’t want to lose the fun of shopping and the sense of discovery,” Galliano said. “And it was not at all constraining to work in this way. It was more like trying to find solutions to creative challenges. Remember, my love of design came from illustration, so creating this felt like I was back at [Central] Saint Martins [College of Art & Design], deciding which parts of the hair to shade and drawing all of the parts.”
Of course, there is also a Galliano sense of humor, with an informational end to the portal, which is accessed at the Web store through the “back entrance.” There, the Galliano Gazette features a shirtless caricature of the designer with shiny teeth, where he sees the possibilities as endless.
“It could eventually include a scented candle, or directions for a diet,” he said. What’s the Galliano diet? “A big breakfast, small lunch, nothing in the evening.”
“The idea is one of discovering and being curious — it’s fun,” he said. “It’s designed to appeal to a wider audience.”
As for his other interests, Galliano was in town for the premier of “Moulin Rouge” and to attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual benefit for the Costume Institute on Monday night, before heading to Tokyo today to research his next couture collection. Interestingly enough, he took a preview tour of its “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” exhibit on Friday morning with Hamish Bowles, who penned the recent Vogue profile on Christian Dior men’s wear designer Hedi Slimane.
That story has raised a few eyebrows, as it featured Slimane’s collection photographed on model Shalom Harlow, and, as everybody knows, Dior women’s wear is Galliano’s turf.
Perhaps too much has been made of what seems to be a friendly rivalry bubbling over there at Dior. Perhaps not. Asked how he felt about the photos, Galliano coyly replied: “Well, I really liked it when it was photographed on boys, but I loved the picture of Hedi by Irving Penn. I think that’s a classic.”
(Shalom’s not in that one.)
Slimane happens to be in town as well and was spotted on Sunday evening, Roller-blading on the bicycle path along the West Side Highway downtown. He too was coy about the article, but informed of Galliano’s comments about the Penn portrait, he smiled and replied: “Bon. Bon. Bon.”

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