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Dior conjures up past in face of recession

"More Dior than Dior." That was how Christian Dior billed its spring/ summer haute couture collection yesterday. It was the first major show of Paris Couture Week, and offered the first answer as to how the luxury houses might respond aesthetically to the recession.

An exuberant designer such as John Galliano was hardly likely to present an austere, "credit-crunch chic" collection, especially given that couture is about fantastic, made-to-measure creations that showcase the skills of the atelier and justify the price tag to the buyer. Instead, he went back to the essence of the Christian Dior label under its founder, then put his own exuberant historical spin on it.

Going back to the roots of a brand is an established way to respond to hard times, and Sidney Toledano, president and chief executive of Dior, told Women's Wear Daily that couture sales had seen "double-digit growth," because Galliano had returned to "really interpreting the Dior codes and the Dior cuts". Accordingly, the classic Dior silhouette of the bar jacket, with its nipped-in waist emphasised by flared hips and a full skirt, was evoked throughout the show. The amount of fabric used in Dior's New Look might have caused outrage in the post-war period, but the full skirts Galliano showed yesterday made their iconic predecessors look almost skimpy.

The floral edging of several of the dresses had an aristocratic feel – as if the wearer had successfully made a fairy-tale dress out of the curtains in her château ... a sartorial solution for those couture clients whose finances aren't recession proof after all.