Friday, December 4, 2015

While At Dior

    From 1996 to 2011 John Galliano held the design reins at Christian Dior.  It was without question one of the most fertile times for the house with regard to sheer imagination, and possibly the profligate use of materials.
    He almost always draws his inspiration from history, with favorite times being the 18th and 19th centuries, and the post war New Look made famous by the house's founder.  But he gleans inspiration for other realms as well, and mashes them together into something fantastical, operatic in expression, and always executed with a level of attention to detail that is peerless.
    Beneath the opera lay the keys to it all. First of all is a master class level of understanding with regard to garment construction.  The things you see here could not be devised by someone who knows nothing of how it all works.  Particularly looking at some of the pieces that are on truly heroic scale, knowledge of the engineering aspects of apparel design is crucial.  This skill set he has in great measure.  The second key is an understanding of textiles and what their qualities are, how they move, drape, and what kinds of stresses they can be put to.  The third is a sense of color, in balance, and in opposition.  And finally, a breadth of education that admits of finding delight and inspiration in every culture, from every time.
    To these other things Galliano added, and still adds, a delight in the new, so he is entirely unafraid of using emerging technology to help the design process along.  He was one of the first major couturiers to employ the use of c-cad drafting programs.  The results were clothes that would likely not have been done without computer help, since some of the pattern pieces were of dizzying complexity.
     It is surely true that most of the work I've selected for you to see here was not designed for the real world, or even to be actually ordered by any of the few couture clients that still exist.  These were designed to wow us with their inescapable dash, and verve.  These are items that are practically passionate novels in motion.  Certainly they all rank as great works of sculpture.
And over all this remarkable shape and expanse, the luxury of embellishment,  given a free hand as it cannot be outside of the couture, finishes nearly everything he does.  Amazing color choices, optical effects, and motifs drawn from everywhere, splash, and dance over his work.  Just looking at these efforts of his tenure at Dior makes your head spin when you think about what was involved in taking them from his mind's eye, to full fledged reality.

     He remains one of the most consistently inventive voices in apparel design.  His unique approach, in part, that of taking understood forms and blowing them up huge, or shrinking them down, resulted in some of the most dazzling work to bridge the two centuries.
    Working now as creative head of Maison Margiela, he is perfectly positioned to continue amazing us, since that firm's mission is to be forward thinking, always, and unafraid of the strange and new.  I look forward to what will come.

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