The Dior glory is Galliano's

A plumber's son will run the top couture house, reports Tamsin Blanchard
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The Independent Online
John Galliano, the 35-year-old plumber's son from Streatham, looks set to take over at one of the most prestigious and wealthy couture houses in Paris, Christian Dior.

Fashion industry insiders believe that Galliano, who spent much of the decade on the brink of financial disaster before being appointed toGivenchy, has been working an apprenticeship for the real task ahead as the designer at Dior. An announcement is due between now and October's ready-to-wear shows in Paris.

Both companies are owned by the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy), headed by the former property developer, Bernard Arnault.

Last year LVMH turned over 29.8bn francs (pounds 3.8bn), putting it in France's top three companies. Mr Arnault's collection of de-luxe names also includes Christian Lacroix, Guerlain, Kenzo, Moet et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot and Mercier champagne, Louis Vuitton and Loewe leather goods, as well as Hennessy cognac.

It is barely a year since Galliano joined Givenchy, where he has transformed the label from a supplier of prim, proper clothes to one that makes the sexiest. Under his own ready-to-wear label, Galliano dresses the actresses Elizabeth Hurley, Sharon Stone and Nicole Kidman.

Since the announcement last July that the Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre's contract with Dior was not to be renewed, fashion's rumour mills have been working overtime. It seems that every designer under the sun has been approached by LVMH. But now Paris has reopened after the August holidays and Galliano's name is on the lips of every fashion insider, although contracts are yet to be signed.

In 1994, Givenchy was worth F400m, pin money compared with Dior. What is significant about Dior is its knack of transforming bottles of sweet- smelling liquid into large profits. Last year, Parfums Christian Dior turned over F5.5bn. Fashion sales were less than a quarter of those for fragrances. But it is the fashion, and the publicity that surrounds the catwalk shows, that gives the perfumes, the tights, the sunglasses and the make-up a brand image, a sense of history, and a reason to buy them.

Under Gianfranco Ferre, Dior has all but turned its back on its own invaluable archives. The combination of the House of Dior and the mad genius of Galliano, is potent. In picking Galliano, Arnault, a canny businessman, will have in mind the transformation at Chanel since Karl Lagerfeld took over. There is no doubt he has been planning as much since buying Christian Dior, his first fashion company, in 1984.

When Lagerfeld took over at Chanel, the name and the archives of Coco Chanel were there, ready to be revitalised and brought into the Eighties. Lagerfeld has put the Chanel stamp on everything, from Wellington boots to hair slides selling at pounds 99 each. And the company's latest perfume, Allure, looks set to be on many Christmas lists. According to a report this year by Mintel, the market researcher, Chanel's share in the female fragrance market for 1995 was pounds 35m. Dior's share was not far behind at pounds 26m.

Galliano is no stranger to designer archives. He is an expert in fashion history. At Dior, he would make use of one of the most famous names in the world, with its princess line, the cardigan jacket, the black, navy- blue and white colour palette, the ropes of pearls and of course, the grand ball gowns.

As for Givenchy, the house will suffer as yet another new designer is sought.