July 6, 2005

Galliano pays tribute to Dior, haute couture staff

By Anna Willard

PARIS (Reuters) - One hundred years after the birth of
Christian Dior, John Galliano paid tribute to the life of the
French designer in a show displaying the efforts of the workers
who spend hours sewing details on haute couture gowns.

The British designer chose corsets covered in flesh colored
fabric under brightly colored tulle to highlight the beading
and embroidery work of the "petites mains" who have an
uncertain future in an industry facing tough times.

Few women nowadays can afford the one-off outfits that cost
upwards of $10,000 and require hundreds of hours of work.

In the past, Paris haute couture houses provided entire
wardrobes for princesses and movie stars. Galliano's
autumn-winter 2005 haute couture collection for LVMH-owned
Christian Dior, in the lush surroundings of the Paris polo
club, looked back to those times.

Guests including singer Christina Aguilera gasped as the
first models stepped out of a real horse-drawn carriage into an
indoor garden resembling the one in Christian Dior's childhood
home in Normandy, in northern France, where he was born in

"I thought it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen,"
Dita von Teese, Burlesque dancer and partner of shock rocker
Marilyn Manson, told Reuters.

"I loved all the shapes, the padded hips on the corsets."

Galliano took the audience through the stages of Dior's
life in 43 gowns starting with Edwardian dresses in austere
greys worn with enormous hats, a section called "Dior's

A model dressed as British Princess Margaret wore a ribbon
embroidered ecru tulle dress with 3-D parrots over a flesh
colored corset, in a section evoking outfits Dior designed for
high society debutantes.

Another seven outfits, such as a turquoise embroidered
yellow tulle dress, paid tribute to outfits worn by past
Hollywood film stars such as Ginger Rogers.

A multicolored wool embroidered green tulle dress which
Galliano said drew on a Degas painting was a particular hit
with the crowd.


"It was a wonderful extravaganza and very inspirational,"
said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of Bloomingdales,
the New York department store told Reuters.

"It will spawn a lot of exciting clothes."

Haute couture is seen as the engine of fashion, developing
styles and techniques that keep the industry moving forward,
and many of those in the audience are there for inspiration.

With a dwindling number of buyers, only top brands like
LVMH-owned Christian Dior and privately owned Chanel can still
afford the million-pound haute-couture shows that serve mainly
to plug their mass market accessories and perfumes.

Predictions of the death of haute couture have been
swirling since the retirement of legendary designer Yves Saint
Laurent in 2002.

But France is reluctant to cut off life support for an
industry it considers vital to its culture and has instead
relaxed the rules for producing couture, which stipulate the
number of staff required per workshop.

"It's a big French tradition and I hope it will last as
long as possible because it gives lots of talents a global
influence," said French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de