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Dior Drama
Text by Nisha Jhangiani
Published: Volume 19, Issue 3, March, 2011
Fluid fabrics; streaks of colour palettes; 50s shapes and silhouettes; detail, detail, detail. Christian Dior’s Spring Summer 2011 couture line-up is a vision of signature surreal style and beauty. Nisha Jhangiani dissects the story behind these works of art...

Two ateliers, a few months of fine finishing, two-three seamstresses per garment and any number of embroiderers. That’s what it takes to produce a couture collection for the few hundred buyers across the world. At Dior, the temple where technique and trend merge to become one, artists are working with focussed, meticulous concentration. The ‘Atelier Tailleur’, which produces jackets, coats, skirts and structured dresses is painstakingly perfecting hemlines while the ‘Atelier Flou’, in charge of the more free flowing gowns and blousons, is appliquéing dainty flowers onto silks and tulles.

This season, Galliano has used inspiration from renowned fashion illustrator René Gruau, a fitting tribute to a master whose career reached idyllic heights through an association with Christian Dior himself. Gruau worked as artistic director for advertising in 1947 and created the image for the Miss Dior perfume advert as well as collaborating with Dior to interpret the ‘New Look’ – one of fashion’s most memorable icons.

The elegance of René’s illustrations; the line, the movement, the gush of paint strokes, have all been incorporated in Dior’s current range of dégradé tulles, gauzy organzas and thick silks to showcase a selection that draws from another era and contemporises it to modern day.

As always, Dior’s favourite experts – Pat McGrath, Orlando Pita and Stephen Jones, have come on board to bring to life the make-up, hair and headgear for the show. Theatrical black eyes, heavily lashed; siren red pouts; structured curl coiffures; long feathery plumes crowning the head – all complement the season’s full and pencil skirts, cinched jackets, billowy-sleeved blousons and voluminous gowns. Exaggerated bows, deep cowls, tiered layers and ruffled folds are set to light up the stage in pastels, deep reds and browns, pure creams and the ever-sensual nude.

Naomi Campbell, Marisa Berenson, Stella Tennant and Lou Doillon take their seats front row in anticipation of the drama that is sure to unfold. The ramp comes alive in blood red, washing the life-size brand initials in the same hue. 32 rounds of glamour later, John Galliano takes his bow, styled in embroidered ebony and a scarlet cravat.

The lucky few clients who’ve seen the show can fix their appointments at Dior’s Parisian couture salon on 30 Avenue Montaigne, where they can browse through the collection in leisure before placing their bespoke orders. Every couture customer is measured on her first visit; if she hasn’t made it to the show, she can visit the salon in the future. Alternatively, the couture team (usually comprising the ‘Directrice’, the ‘Première D’Atelier’, the ‘Seconde D’Atelier’, an additional member of the group and probably a seamstress) will fly down for a personalised session to present the collection and take an order or more. A minimum of three fittings is mandatory (four for a wedding dress), again, these meetings can be organised at the atelier or the client’s residence, as per her convenience. The prized tag, bearing a signage of ‘Christian Dior Haute Couture’, followed by the season and the order number, is intrinsic to every ordered garment. Four to six months later, an exquisitely wrapped box arrives at the client’s doorstep, to her everlasting excitement.

And therein lies the story of an eternal heirloom.

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