|From Christian Dior Haute Couture S/S 09 Paris|
When people are confronting recession, counting their pennies and designing their wardrobes on the save-not-splurge formula, what is the role of French haute couture where a single dress can cost the price of a modest British home?
John Galliano, the couturier at Christian Dior, offered a master class in the art of the couture atelier by way of explanation, in his collection, on the opening day of the spring/summer 2009 season in Paris yesterday.
Galliano literally turned gowns inside out to show the extraordinary construction, hand-finished seams, painstaking cross-stitching and velvet ribbon bindings which go into the making of an haute couture creation.
As many as 80 craftsmen and women in the Dior couture ateliers worked for between 300 and 400 hours to create each of the six corseted, crinoline, ballgowns for the show's finale. Then, each gown was sent to Paris's surviving artisan studios which employ the specialist hand-beaders and embroiderers.
"I spent hours in the archives, examining the inside of Dior's designs, subjecting them to an almost forensic examination. It was like discovering a long-lost love letter which declared a passion for clothes which are beautifully and elegantly made. It is an art, which the craftsmen and women perform with love and pride," Galliano said.
His sentiments were echoed by the president and chief executive of Dior, Mr Sidney Toledano, who, in referring to an escape route from the global financial meltdown, said: "Politicians can provide the leadership, but artists such as John (Galliano) have a role to play, as well."
The Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard, Mischa Barton, the R&B singer Kanye West, and the burlesque star Dita Von Teese, who opens a new season at Paris's Crazy Horse at the weekend, were among the front-row celebrities, together with a solid turnout of "real money" clients.
The French First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who is one of Dior's most high-profile fans, was not present but was there in spirit as tracks from her latest CD, "Comme Si de Rien N'Etait", featured on the soundtrack.
The collection, inspired by Flemish Old Masters,Van Dyck and Vermeer, paraded against a stained glass-inspired backdrop which echoed the colours of their paintings and was, in turn, reflected in the rich gold, chrome yellow, ivory and Delft blue colours of the clothes.
Pearl necklaces, referencing Vermeer's 'Girl with Pearl Earring', embellished the necklines of Guipure lace, shawl-collared suits. Pencil skirts featured pannier-style "wings" at the side or were draped into soft pleats and bows at the back. Matching shoes were balanced on scroll-design pedestal heels.
The Dutch tulip was a recurring motif, hand-painted, beaded and embroidered on the underside of rise-and-fall hems.
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