Jul 1, 2007
Reading time
3 minutes
Download the article
Click here to print
Text size
aA+ aA-

Dior : 'I just adored it'

Jul 1, 2007

PARIS, July 1, 2007 (AFP) - Designers came and went but life at Christian Dior was always exciting, a stylist who worked for twenty-five years at the prestigious fashion house recalls as the house celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Under Marc Bohan, it was "like being back at school," while his successor Gianfranco Ferre was "much less organised," and working for the current incumbent John Galliano was "amusing," according to Guillaumette Napoly.

Napoly was taken on by Bohan, who had worked under the great man himself and took over the helm in 1970 from Yves Saint Laurent, who had succeeded Dior after the designer's death.

"The atmosphere was very strict ... it was very, very serious," Napoly remembers.

"Once all the fabrics had arrived, Marc Bohan used to go off for a week to his country retreat at Fontainbleau to draw. He used to draw his long-line silhouettes on little cards, very methodical."

"He was a very sensitive, reserved young man. He would make his selection from our models and put together a collection according to his own ideas.

"Once all the models were finished, there would be a dress rehearsal in the grand salon. He would correct each model and decide on accessories. It used to take all day, with the curtains closed so nobody from outside could catch a glimpse of the new collection. It was quite a ritual."

Gianfranco Ferré - Photo : François Guillot/AFP

In 1985 Bernard Arnault became president of Christian Dior, and four years later headhunted the late Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre to replace Bohan and raise the house's profile.

Arnault "wanted someone who would get the house talked about," Napoly says, admitting that "nobody really knew much about Bohan, even if he had designed Princess Caroline of Monaco's wedding dress." The sedate fashion house was really only "ticking over," she admits.

When Ferre arrived he gave the house a makeover, had the design studio changed, everywhere redecorated, and had ultra chic offices installed. He would only take on staff who had worked with him in Italy, Napoly says.

"The way we worked was the same -- drawings, fittings -- but much less organised."

Ferre was "very approachable, but he knew how to put people in their place. He'd say 'I'm the star here.' He was always very dapper, in a beautiful suit with matching tie and shiny leather shoes -- he was like a king."

After Ferre's contract with the house was not renewed, the whirlwind arrival of maverick British designer John Galliano on the scene ten years ago, with a team of his close friends, was a "major upheaval."

"He came to the studio, he was very nervous, very shy, you felt he was a bit overwhelmed," Napoly recalls.

Ferre's studio "didn't suit him at all" so there had to be substantial building work to create a new one, which "practically nobody was allowed to enter."

From a work point of view, everything was "a bit vague, much less rigorous, although it was amusing, it felt very alive."

"But there was a big, big communications problem because we couldn't understand anything from his sketches. There were lots of explanations but they were in English. The assistants didn't speak English so he had to translate. Everybody got by as best they could."

John Galliano at the end of Christian Dior fashionshow (haute couture spring-summer 2007) in Paris on January 22nd - Photo : François Guillot/AFP

Galliano's designs are a challenge for his ateliers. For example, his "Tramps" collection in 2000. "The assistants were in a panic...it was totally new, they were used to making very structured dresses, and now they had to make ones with hardly any structure at all. They were constantly having to adapt."

"The house of Dior has totally changed its look, even its customers. It has been a big upheaval, but I adored it."

By Dominique Schroeder

Copyright © 2022 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.