Why would DIOR need a star designer?

Since the scandalous departure of its Creative Director John Galliano almost two years ago, the house of Christian Dior has been taking its time for what I would call ”soul searching” and the result, most probably un-intended or unplanned, is a more understated creative direction driven by craftsmanship and exclusivity rather than its previous flamboyant and flashy luxurious state.

The lavish theatrical fashion shows of John Galliano for Dior have been replaced in the past seasons by  more traditional happenings resembling the private trunk shows of the days of Mr Dior. Dispite his seemingly temporary tenure at Dior, Bill Gaytten, Galliano’s former right hand who took over after his departure, seems to have secured his position by reclaiming Dior’s former glory and bringing a much needed boost of Dior identity. What used to be ”Dior by Galliano” is now simply ”Dior”.

As many as five designer have been insistently rumoured by the press to take over Galliano’s position, but is his position vacant any longer? The hesitant tone of the responses by both its owner, Bernard Arnault and its CEO Sydney Toledano have now been replaced an overtly mockery tone. Earlier this week, following Dior’s Fall Winter 2012-2013 show in Paris, when asked whether he is ready to make an annoucement for the replacement of Galliano, Mr. Arnault smiled and, pointing to the ceiling, indicated that only God could say. In an interview to AFP, Sidney Toledano, CEO of Dior Couture said “It does not displease me…the rumor is going well, it’s no big deal“.

He resumed his speech, worn and imperturbable, repeated in the margin of each show for a year. Patient and professional. “The pressure is the fashion world who saw her, it’s part of the game But the novelty, it does not live by that. Should be built. Me I pilot, I lead, says it.

The major Dior exhibitions in Russia and China last year did fine without Galliano, all eyes being on the Dior itself. More than ever before, Dior is about its founder, Monsieur Dior and not about its star creative director. All marketing activities of the maison in the past coalesce with the same objective, of reflecting on Monsieur Dior’s legacy and the vast heritage he left behind. The latest online magazine launched by Dior last week, is all about historical facts of the maison, the cutting edge look of the Dior online website has been replaced by a more basic, yet sophisticated feel which is instilled through large photos of Dior’s headquarters on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. Dior’s latest haute couture fashion show in January this year took place at its Avenue Montaigne showroom, a major shift from the lavish shows of Galliano. Even this week’s ready to wear show held at the Rodin Museum had a more discreet and toned down feel.

Gaytten’s latest work for Dior, the Fall Winter 2012-2013 collection has drawn harsh criticism from important fashion critics and journalists. New York Times’ Cathy Horyn openly criticizes Gaytten’s work for Dior, going as far as questioning whether his designs reflect the Dior spirit any longer. Much like other commentators and critics which persistently circulate rumours about Galliano’s replacement, Horyn fails to grasp that finding a star designer to replace Galliano might no longer be Arnaud’s strategy for Dior. With the occasion of the first fashion show after Galliano’s dismissal, Dior’s CEO Sydney Toledano made a brilliant move by inviting the entire creative team of Dior to show up on stage at the end of the show. It was probably the backdrop inspiration for Bernard Arnauld to reflect on whether Dior needs a star designer.

Oliver Petcu