After the sensationalism of John Galliano’s scandalous departure from Dior earlier this year, one question remained: Which designer will finally step up as the new creative director of the legacy brand? After months of breathless speculation, all indicators seem to point decisively in the direction of one man: Marc Jacobs. The Daily is reporting that “high-ranking industry sources” confirm that the deal is now final. A final and official statement from Dior is expected imminently to confirm the news.
Jacobs’ dynamic relationship with the music community cannot be underestimated. He spearheaded the early 90s grunge trend in his brief, but catalytic role as Perry Ellis’s creative director; from there forward, his sly and shape-shifting design manifestations have compelled everyone from Kim Gordon to David Byrne to Madonna. Like pop music’s own vagaries, Jacobs’ visual mechanics can shift dramatically in scale, narrative, and tone every 6 months. No wonder fellow restless firebrand M.I.A. was an ideally unconventional poster girl for Marc by Marc Jacobs in 2008, a year of many musical camaraderies for Jacobs: Kanye West wore the designer’s pixelated heart pin, ensuring it as instant pop iconography; Sonic Youth performed at his show. A year later, pop royalty changed thrones and, fittingly, Lady Gaga stunned his audience as the surprise performer at his Spring 2010 collection after party.
Suffice to say, Jacobs’ musical loyalists will follow his travails at Dior, a brand already valued chiefly by the entertainment universe mainly for its aspirational status. The beacon of French luxury remains a red carpet staple, and countless rappers routinely namedrop Dior (alongside stalwarts Gucci, Vuitton, and Chanel) in materialist anthems. But the primary pop figure to truly live and breathe the contemporary Dior ethos has been Gwen Stefani, who played Galliano’s unofficial muse for the better part of a decade (he made her an unforgettable wedding gown; she dedicated “Rich Girl” to him in thanks.) Both Galliano and Stefani favor deviant interpretations of 1940s glamor: any No Doubt video confirms this, while latter day Dior shows exhibit the same playful admiration for vignettes of the past. At the core of both creatives’ priorities: beauty, even when off-kilter. This was not the willfully Dadaist realm of McQueen or Lady Gaga.
In his tenure for the label, Galliano fixated religiously on creating inspired iterations of “The New Look,” Dior’s original breakthrough 1947 silhouette; Stefani, and other female starlets, wore them in videos, and in photo shoots. By 2011, Galliano’s retrofitting trick, in its various guises, was starting to bore a few critics, inviting the industry to speculate whether fresh creative blood at Dior was advisable. Like a chart clogged with hits produced by one overarching entity, the Dior aesthetic was turning staid.
With Jacobs at Dior’s helm, the brand’s legacy looks will certainly be modernized and musicians who favor Parisian styles will find their looks subtly shifting. In essence, two of France’s most decadent labels will be seeing major changes: while Jacobs indulges his inner decadent for Dior, someone will take over as creative director of Louis Vuitton, a position he’s held since 1997. His successor is likely to be ultra-minimalist Phoebe Philo, says WWD. If that’s the case, expect Vuitton’s sexual opulence and grandeur to be toned down into something sleek, discreet, and sophisticated — a lux economy Philo does brilliantly for Celine, as Kanye West appreciates.
As for what Dior under Jacobs might look like? It would be foolish to conjecture: it’s impossible to predict Jacobs’ own trajectory from season to season. But it’s worth noting that the designer’s past interpretations of vintage glamor usually point out the uglier and more trite aspects of an era. That irreverence may alienate those who favored Galliano’s florid romanticism and theatrics, on and off the runway.