John Galliano is in bohemian mood for Christian Dior in Paris this season. Bohemian, at least, by the standards of a grand house such as Dior's, and compared to last season's overtly sexy, Eighties-style collection, which featured short skirts and bustier tops.
Galliano was inspired by "Persian miniatures and the rich decadence of the Orientalists" and by classic Dior designs such as the Bar jacket, which he reinterpreted in shapes and fabrics reminiscent of those used by Orientalist designers such as Poiret.
It is typical of the designer, who has been at the head of Christian Dior since 1997, to fuse references from the couture house's archive with his own, more escapist ideas.
The first half of the show featured the clearest references to the Dior archive, with the narrow waist, soft shoulders and full hips of the Bar jacket reworked in Ikat print jacquard, grey silk and crimson wool. These were teamed with draped takes on the tulip skirt with fitted hems. Coats came in purple wool with paisley-style teardrop-shaped embroidery and rich brocades.
The second half of the show was more reminiscent of Galliano's designs for his own label than usual, with more romantic unstructured creations such as an ochre silk jumpsuit with turquoise beading around the neck, and an all-in-one in navy silk lamé with a feather-like print.
The dresses were a high point, with knee-length 1920s designs in sheer ochre, red paisley and deep violet silk. Galliano's love of colour was manifested throughout particularly in evening dresses in hot pink silk with sari-style embroidery and peach silk with silver thread.
It has become clear over the past two seasons that designers aren't responding to the recession by creating sombre, wear-your-mood-on-your-sleeve clothes. Rather, economic-meltdown chic is more counter-intuitive than that – and labels are making special, decorative pieces that they hope will break down more cautious consumers' resolves not to shop. John Galliano told Women's Wear Daily that "this is a credit, not a creative, crisis. Our clients still want fashion; still want to be inspired. Right now, fashion should be a morale booster, escapist, excellent and constant."
However, Christian Dior's sales have been affected by the downturn, and in 2008 fourth-quarter revenues slipped by 6.9 per cent, and revenues for the full year shrank by 2.8 per cent to €765m (£685m). The label hopes to reverse this fall with a move upmarket that it embarked upon before the downturn hit. Sidney Toledano, president and CEO of Dior said he plans to "consolidate our position at the top of the luxury pyramid", with the intention of standing out in a crowded market.
Christian Dior has been regarded as one of France's grandest and most historic luxury labels since the founder unveiled his debut collection in 1947. Dubbed the "New Look", by Harper's Bazaar's editor Carmel Snow, it was met with critical acclaim and moral opprobrium over the quantity of fabric used to make the skirt in a time of rationing, but it secured Dior's place. Recent boosts include Carla Bruni's penchant for the label's more demure designs, and Sarah Jessica Parker's decision to wear a Cinderella-like white dress by Christian Dior couture to the Oscars this year.