Is Christian Dior greater than John Galliano? Undoubtedly – it is one of the pre-eminent French heritage brands, and the British designer’s name is not above the door – but that doesn’t mean, if, as rumour has it, Mr Galliano and Dior part ways over the recently released video, it will be a simple, or economically pain-free, transition.
Since his arrival in 1996, after a time at Givenchy, Mr Galliano has reinvented and reinvigorated the Dior brand, making it synonymous with Grand Spectacle. He has held collections at Versailles, and in the Bois de Boulogne, as well as in the hallowed halls of the Maison itself; Friday’s event, as part of Paris Fashion Week, is scheduled for the Musée Rodin, where a tent has been constructed in the garden. Mr Galliano’s signature is an aesthetic that marries the flamboyant with a filigree delicacy, as well as a comprehensive understanding of historical dress, and he has imbued Dior with his sensibility, often playing off New Look codes with exaggerated style in his collections.
Responsible for the aesthetic direction of Dior’s couture, women’s wear, ad campaigns (he was a creative instigator of the brand’s successful series of short internet films), and accessories, Mr Galliano is very much the “face” of the house. His rock star-like bows at the end of shows are notorious and have served to make Mr Galliano almost synonymous with the house Christian Dior built, a reality that will complicate life for anyone who might replace him. He also still has a well of goodwill in the fashion world – he was the first of the breakout British designers to run a big French house, and paved the way at LVMH for Alexander McQueen, Julian Macdonald, Matthew Williamson and Phoebe Philo – and most editors at the Milan shows expressed sadness and confusion at recent events, while noting if the accusations were found to be true, he could not stay at the fashion house.
The immediate question facing Dior, however, is to show or not to show this Friday: the women’s wear collection should be largely complete, and the tent built, but threats of protests and the related adverse publicity may mitigate against a public defile. If so, it will be a blow to the house, which has been vocal about the power of the publicity generated by its shows to sell perfume, cosmetics, and accessories.
Finally, the company has said nothing about the fate of Mr Galliano’s eponymous brand, which he designs alongside Dior, and which they own. Whatever happens with Dior, however, presumably Mr Galliano will continue in his role as designer of model Kate Moss’s wedding dress, she being no stranger to scandal herself.