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Corrugated Modernist Christian Dior Couture
July 04th, 2011 @ 11:04 AM - Paris
A new broom swept through Christian Dior on Monday afternoon, July 4, a modernist gale and a witty architectural take on fashion, in the first show for the celebrated French label by its de facto new couturier, British-born Bill Gaytten.
Angular, rippling with Pop Culture colors and cut in the twisting metallic shapes of architectural great Frank Gehry, this was a brand new Dior couture, albeit with a collection that powerfully worked the house’s legendary atelier, while keeping enough of the inspired mania of its sacked designer, John Galliano.
Staged, like many recent Dior couture shows in the garden of the Rodin Museum, albeit in a noticeably smaller custom-made tent, the collection began with a series of colorful plays on the designs of Ettore Sottsass, the famed Milanese architect and guiding figure behind Memphis. And, just like that design movement, which celebrated absurdist combinations of bold colors and off beat geometry, the opening looks were artily graphic. From the printed silk jackets in layers recalling a Memphis “robot” cabinet to the remarkable wedges with bizarre Art Deco ball heels, the outfits had tremendous pep.
Gaytten then shifted rhythm with a snazzy series of more curvaceous silk tops and skirts embellished with metallic strips in hues of rose, beige and dusty powder, all playing on the novel material mixes of corrugated iron and plywood and deconstructed forms of Los Angeles architect Gehry, whose most famous building is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a structure covered in titanium tiles. Gehry, whose only appearance at a fashion show in Paris was at Dior couture five years ago, when he was commissioned by Dior’s main shareholder Bernard Arnault to design a major cultural center in Paris for Louis Vuitton, Dior’s sister brand.
Gaytten continued to riff on modern design in Dior’s evening wear, featuring malachite prints reminiscent of France’s most famous furniture designer Jean-Michael Franck, used in giant micro-pleated gowns that the models, arms raised high, swept up into dramatic fiery angel looks on the catwalk, whose entrance was a twisting modernist faux stairway.
“Architectural and modern, but also true to Dior,” explained Gaytten to FWD backstage. A dry witted, off beat gent, Gayteen took his bow together with Dior design director Susanna Venegas, a fellow Britain albeit of Latin American origin.
Gaytten had already taken a bow 10 days ago at the menswear show of John Galliano. Both Dior and his own signature label fired Galliano back in March, after a video showing him praising Hitler went viral on the internet.
Noticeably, the entire Galliano back up at Dior – from makeup star Pat McGrath and show producer Alex de Betak to DJ Jeremy Healy and hatter Stephen Jones – all played their usual roles in this show. And in the case of McGrath – who mimicked the vivid violets and machine greens of Memphis in some dramatic eyeliner shapes - and even more so with Jones - who evoked the off-kilter humor of both Gehry and Sottsass with his cuboids and spacey hats – this was a team hitting a reach vein.
In short, even if it did not quite capture the evocative femininity and outlandish beauty of Galliano’s greatest Dior shows, the collection was a decided success. Plus, by taking such a defiantly modernist approached, Gaytten imbued the clothes with a certain freshness compared to recent Dior shows, many of which had delved back a half century into the house’s archives for inspiration.
Post-show, Dior presented its latest collection of high-end jewelry designed by Victoire de Castellane in a darkened and bucolic rose garden. Entitled, The Rose Ball, it was a really brilliant tour de force, featuring beautiful rings, earrings and necklaces - designs that almost seemed organically sprung from nature; either a Venetian Ball ring in yellow diamonds and pink spinel costing euros 295,000, or $430,000, or a mesmerizing May Ball necklace, a vivid bouquet of light starring a 15.75 carat brown diamond and featuring some 4,700 stones, that retails for 2.1 million euros, or $3 million.
But, dazzling rocks aside, this was very much Gaytten’s day. After months of intense speculation about Galliano’s successor, he very much performed as a highly assured clutch hitter. As they say at the parting and succession of monarchs. The king is dead, long live the king.