Dior's Galliano battles economic crisis with flowers

PARIS, July 5 Mon Jul 5, 2010 4:29pm EDT

PARIS, July 5 (Reuters) - Dior designer John Galliano threw off any notion of recession on Monday with his boisterous collection of tight bodices and swinging skirts that recalled the extravagance of Dior's 1950's New Look.

The haute couture collection, designed for the winter of 2011, seemed to plead for spring, with contrasting primary colours and an abundance of swinging organza.

Models wore spiked strappy sandals and some had their heads wrapped in yellow or red cellophane as though they were bouquets of flowers.

The show recalled the "Tulip line" designed by Christian Dior in 1953 when the house was the beacon of French fashion.

"This show was such fun, after watching the news this morning, with the oil spill and everything," said Joyce Samuels, who has been buying Dior for 40 years.

Haute couture remains among the most expensive fashion in the world.

An evening dress can cost around 40,000 dollars and a suit not much less. Experts estimate that there are no more than 300 clients for the clothes, many of whom live in Russia, Arab countries and Asia.

The expense derives from the prestige of the piece and the man-hours that are required to make a dress or a suit by hand.

Galliano's pieces were no exception, with a black bodice made of feathers and hand painted dresses.

"You see in these dresses the work of the artisans ... their labour is evident," said Sylvie le Louam, who buys haute couture. "This is art."

But increasingly designers are finding the expense of haute couture hard to justify, especially during the economic turmoil.

They are turning their eye to both emerging markets and celebrities to sell their clothes. American actors Jessica Alba and Jared Leto attended the show, as did buyers from Hong Kong, Thailand as well as India.

"Wealthy people in these countries have a need for recognition and status," said Jean-Jacques Picard, an adviser to LVMH (LVMH.PA). "High fashion is, along with jewellery, the best means to convey the fact that you belong to the privileged, without having to utter a word."

Even amid the luxury Dior's clothing -- a dress of triple ply organza, a mohair jacket in turquoise with a high round collar -- there were moments of sobriety that could appeal, if not to the cash-strapped shopper, then maybe to the cash conscious.

Above a swinging skirt, he placed a white felt jacket nipped at the waist. Above a soft grey skirt, he put a black wool jacket a woman might wear to a job interview.

"There was a wearability to some of these clothes that we don't always see in haute couture," said one fashion editor, who asked not to be named. "There is a sense that Dior was getting back to basics."