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The outfits Dior didn't want you to know about

Media manipulation: Designers and chefs seek to control press by banning hostile commentators
IT WAS A case of the journalist they couldn't afford. The Independent was not invited to John Galliano's fourth show for Christian Dior yesterday afternoon.

Rumour has it that the designer blew an entire season's budget on one beaded jacket for his haute couture collection in the summer. So elaborate was the Lesage embroidery, it cost the house more than even the LVMH luxury goods group could sensibly afford. As a result, the ready-to-wear show yesterday was downsized to 400 journalists and buyers invited to two separate shows.

Instead of holding his show in an elaborate and costly venue on the outskirts of Paris, Galliano was encouraged to cut costs and present the new collection in the Dior shop on Avenue Montaigne. There was no room for one more fashion editor from a British newspaper. Nor was there room for one more photographer. Access was denied. Dior, I was told, just could not afford the space.

Perhaps the house could not afford another critical review either. The world of fashion is one of mutual back-scratching and sycophancy. The fashion press, and the glossy magazines which need the advertising revenue of houses like Dior to survive, have generally been positive, supporting the designers' self-indulgent trawls through fashion and costume history.

Few dare to criticise a designer's collection, and when they do they risk losing their invite to the next season's show. As fashion editor of the London Evening Standard in March 1994, Lowri Turner was banned from attending a Christian Lacroix show for a season after writing a searing and sarcastic review. Determined not to miss out, she wore a black wig over her blonde hair and snuck into the show incognito.

Suzy Menkes, the fashion doyenne of the International Herald Tribune, is one of the few fashion journalists who dares to be honest. Over the years, she has found herself dis-invited from shows after speaking her mind, most recently from Versace.

Designers are fragile birds at the best of times. It was perhaps no coincidence that not only was The Independent not welcome at Dior, I have been told that there is no place for us at John Galliano's own show tomorroweither.

The Independent's coverage of Galliano and Dior over the past few seasons may have been mixed. Our main gripe is that he has lost his grasp on reality; the clothes tend to look more like fancy dress and historical costume than anything most women - even millionairesses - want to wear. He has lost his innovative edge. None of these opinions are constructive in the eyes of Dior at the moment.

Galliano is clearly rattled. In Monday's Women's Wear Daily, the designer is quoted as saying: "I don't think that people understand that the clothes are selling better than they ever have. Please come to the store on a Saturday. It is packed with customers and they are buying."

He added: "To soothe the nay-sayers, we will have an enormous collection, showing all the products ... We do have a showroom. I'm not sure all of the journalists have understood that."

I might take a trip to the showroom, after seeing the pictures I think this collection looks like a winner.

Fashion, Review, page 9

"Fashion to John Galliano [above] is all about dressing for lunching out... for languishing in a villa at dusk... If only life were like that. I appreciate that we are fin-de-siecle. But which siecle pray?"

Tamsin Blanchard on Galliano, October 1997