John Galliano for Dior: China and Japan
John Galliano, born Juan Carlos Antonio Galliano Gullén, was born in Gibraltar on November 3, 1960. He is an English designer with Spanish citizenship.
The son of a plumber, he graduated in 1983 with a fashion design degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with a collection inspired by the French Revolution, Les Incroyables. He was named Designer of the Year in 1987, 1994 and 1995; in 1997 he shared the award with Alexander McQueen, his successor at Givenchy.
His first show for Dior coincided with the anniversary of the maison, on January 20, 1997. Cited and celebrated for his immense love for the theater, he is considered one of the greatest stylists of all time.
Galliano's work is immense and extremely complex. This article analyzes the artistic and cultural references of Dior by Galliano in reference to China and Japan.
The theme of the Orient was not fully introduced into the style of the brand by Galliano, but monsieur Dior himself had included it in his fall-winter 1948 collection with the "Shanghai blue dress". Although he never traveled in his life, he used a lot of Chinese references during the 1950s in many collections, such as Tang Dynasty handwriting, qipao and blue.
But Galliano was undoubtedly the greatest citationist on Chinese and Japanese culture at Dior.
The fall/winter 1997 is inspired by Jayne Mansfield during a trip to the exotic East. The destination is Shanghai, with its colors and traditional clothes (such as the qipao) revisited in a lascivious key.
The Chinese parasol is taken directly from Galliano's first campaign for Dior (1997), whose design is inspired by the actress Maggie Cheung - who later became famous for her lead role in In the mood for love (2000).
Another Hollywood reference is to the actress of the 20s and 30s, Anna May Wong.
The RTW 1999 fielded designs of clearly military origin, as demonstrated by the Maoist-flavored outfits, but also the classic red and gold, traditional and timeless colors.
Spring/summer 2003 couture imposes a greater quotation. Also referred to as "Asia Major", this collection recalls a trip to the Peking Opera.
After a three-week trip to China and Japan, Galliano has staged a show of gigantic theatricality: the ancient and the modern are mixed in very large volumes; the same designer has used the term "hard-core romance" to describe the new hyperbolic passion for exaggerated volumes and the celebration of colour. Chinese dancers and circus performers, revisited Chinese dresses and kimonos become among the greatest dresses ever created.
The 2003 prêt-à-porter is no less, where on the catwalk "a hard-core love story! Sexual robots!", according to Galliano's comment.
Models like queens of the fetishized Kabuki theatre, references to 18th century Asian clothes made more wearable than in the previous collections, scaled down with respect to the hyperbolic volumes and box-shaped 3D cuts.
"Japonism" is a term used in art history to refer to the Japanese influence on European art and culture, especially with regard to the current of impressionism at the end of the 19th century.
Spring-summer 2007 is intrinsically imbued with Japonism and, to achieve which, Galliano went to Japan in search of inspiration.
Galliano's will to tell a Japanese story through Western eyes is the same that laid the foundations of Madama Butterfly, the principle of this collection.
On February 17, 1904 Giacomo Puccini presented this work at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, still considered one of the greatest of all time.
Based on the story by John Luther Long, the tragedy tells of Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a US naval officer stationed in Japan, who marries the former geisha Cio-Cio San. Shortly after the wedding, he abandoned her only to return after three years with an American wife. When Cio-Cio San discovers that he wants to bring her child to the USA, she commits suicide.
John Galliano abandons cheekiness, drag queen poses and multi-faceted and exaggerated references for a "return to form". He takes up the Bar suit created in 1947 by Pierre Cardin (at the time the first tailor at Dior) and crosses it with the kimono: it is the Japanese New Look.
The silhouettes are elongated, the dresses are made with yards and yards of fabric. The jackets recall the pattern of samurai armor and the clothes recall the very expensive lacquers.
Among the major Japanese motifs, the ubiquitous origami stands out
the hanging lanterns, as well as the geisha hairstyles and the obi, the typical Japanese belt used to wrap the kimono.
The finale is capped off with a gorgeous, giant origami crane bride.
Some dresses recall the pictorial work of the Rising Sun, such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. Here the New Look has been reinterpreted with an empire silhouette with bell sleeves and a dramatic collar.
The headpieces are designed by Stephen Jones.
The make-up is designed by Pat McGrath and recalls both the geisha make-up and the masks of the No theatre.
At the end of the parade, Galliano appeared dressed as Commodore Matthew C. Perry, signer of the first commercial treaty between the West and Japan. The Rising Sun has thus opened up to the world: the Edo period ends and the Meiji period begins, with all that follows.
Since this collection coincides with the anniversary of the maison, a limited edition has also been created (including two models of bags and three of shoes in different colors) called Dior Samurai.