Fabio Ciquera, luxury communication strategist and lecturer, puts the Dior scandal aside and questions John Galliano’s appropriateness in the current climate.
Many fashion commentators have expressed their opinions on John Galliano’s dismissal – for the reasons that now we all know – after a very long and successful tenure at Christian Dior. We have read about increasingly bizarre behaviour due to the pressure of the modern fashion system, which requires creativity combined with business acumen. I found irritating to read, in most articles, that the collections, which had before been hailed as extraordinary accomplishments of the visionary Galliano, are now reinterpreted in retrospective of last week’s events as a sign of a disturbed mind. Aren’t we too quick to judge and drop who we adored till the day before?
John Galliano’s racist ranting occurred more than once, as we now know, and his excuses arrived too late to save his post as creative director. I would like to make another reflection regarding what has happened at the House of Dior.
“ Dior was one of the first brands to majorly reposition, shifting its business interests from couture to fast fashion with a vast range of accessories ”
I also believe that we are too oblivious of the recent history of luxury; the shift that happened more than a decade ago, from prestige to masstige, from selling to an elite, to the need of selling to the masses to survive in an increasingly aggressive fashion system. John Galliano started his career at Dior when luxury groups as we know them now were starting to form. And Dior was one of the first brands that went through a major repositioning, shifting its business interests from couture to fast fashion with a vast range of accessories.
In the early noughties, the Avenue Montaigne store in Paris – the flagship that was once inhabited by Monsieur Dior himself – was packed with teenagers buying pins with the famous J’ADORE DIOR motto for as little as 50FF. Dior extended its brand to accessories with the famous Saddle Bag, a huge success; but it also spread itself too thin with heavily branded items with the Dior logo on it. Good for sales but risky to maintain brand integrity. This process was only possible through the vision of Galliano, who created a powerful new imagery and refuelled the dream around Dior with his Haute Couture shows.
Unfortunately, the new clientele of luxury only aspires to the top, acquiring what is reminiscent of that and what they can actually afford. In other words, Galliano was good for show value and visibility, his shows and advertising campaigns on every magazine to fuel the dream around the House of Dior, but ultimately to sell a vast range of cheaper products to a new luxury clientele. This even justified extremely complicated and costly fashion shows, some of them costing in excess of €3 million.
“ the new clientele of luxury only aspires to the top, acquiring what is reminiscent of that and what they can actually afford ”
At one point, the distance between what Galliano was designing for the haute couture shows and what actually was on sale in the stores, conceived by marketers, was immense. Hence the recent changes; from logoed products and shock campaigns back to Parisian chic, even dressing Carla Bruni for her state visits. This process is not only a style exercise but an expensive and lengthy repositioning too. Luxury works on a mix of modernity and heritage that needs to be constantly balanced. I feel that Galliano was not part of this equation any longer; his vision not reflecting what the House of Dior wanted to be become.
Dior, once owned by Arnault personally through the LVMH group, now owns the LVMH group. This makes complicated to extract any financial reports of the brand itself, but ultimately a fashion house does not get rid of a designer if its creations sell. Galliano is the latest victim of a system that takes into account sales and figures and uses creativity as a smoke screen to hide highly crafted marketing campaigns. If that were not true, the luxury goods business, evaluated at €232 billion in 2010, would be considerably smaller – as small as nine haute couture gowns sold by Dior each season.
After several years spent in the publishing sector, Fabio Ciquera works as a communication strategy consultant with luxury brands. He was also appointed Luxury Group Management and Strategies lecturer at Istituto Marangoni in September 2010, as well as editing his own blog and contributing to Browns Fashion.