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Galliano's Kick Out the "Dior": Bad News for the Brand... and Haute Couture

When a group of models made their final sashay during Christian Dior's runway show in Paris today, designer John Galliano was notably absent from the spotlight. Three days ago Dior sacked him, proving that even stunning sartorial sensibilities can't save you after spouting ant-Semitic slurs. In the wake of the scandal, Dior execs maintain a business-as-usual air, but the ripples of Galliano's ousting will be felt by the company -- and the haute couture industry -- for some time.

Dior's core business

It's unlikely that the fall at the House of Dior will smack down profits of its parent company LVMH immediately. After all, the French conglomerate just posted a net profit increase of 73 percent to €3.03 billion on a 19 percent increase in revenues. Its namesake brand Louis Vuitton led the charge with sales of its fashion and leather-goods vaulting 20 percent.

However, Londoner Galliano was responsible for injecting a much-needed whimsical hauteur into ho-hum Dior when he became creative director in 1996. Galliano became famous for his audacious flights of fashion fantasy in both Dior's haute couture and ready-to-wear collections, as well as his eponymous brand -- also owned by Dior. (The Galliano-branded show will not go on as planned this Sunday.)

Hiring a replacement will take a while, thanks to French employment law. With no creative direction, Dior is likely to falter for the next few seasons. And whoever is installed will most likely attempt a 180 degree departure from Galliano's antics.

Still, even the most politically correct designer will have a hard time following in the footsteps of the wunderkind who topped his own wildest fancies season after season. Would you want to reinvent a collection after an eye-patch sporting, modern-day pirate sends models down the runway decked out as fluffy flowers complete with cellophane headwraps?

A brand besmirched

Though Galliano's dismissal was swift and unsympathetic, Dior executive's intolerance for hate may not be enough to carry the brand through the short term muck. Indeed, at the show today only a few French starlets populated the A-list chairs in the front row. Dior spokeswoman Natalie Portman, the Academy Award-winning actress who declined to wear Dior to the Oscars, was also absent.

And in the department of kick-'em-when-they're-down, Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld wasted no time launching a scathing rant against his former competitor, ensuring that devotees of the Kaiser will think twice before looking at Dior again.

The future of haute couture

Unlike ready-to-wear collections, haute couture refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fit garments crafted from costly fabrics and hand-sewn with a singular attention to detail by the most accomplished seamstresses. Though the moniker gets tossed about in fashion circles, the true couturiers are few. Only nine, including Christian Dior, have the official stamp of approval from the Fédération française de la couture. That's down from 106 in 1946.

Galliano's propensity for transforming fabric into planes of origami or masterminding the cascading of thousands of soft, silk petals into bell-shaped skirts and bedecked blouses was oft admired and will be difficult to duplicate, especially as the cost of raw goods continues to rise.

As more and more designers focus on making their collections more affordable and accessible to the masses, the loss of a true couturier deals another heavy blow to an already dying art in the industry.

Image via HuffPo

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