Get Lit: Interview With Dior Catwalk's Alexander Fury

Get Lit: Interview With Dior Catwalk's Alexander Fury

Famed fashion critic Alexander Fury talks his new book Dior Catwalk unpicking each collection over the brand's 70 years.

Famed fashion critic Alexander Fury talks his new book Dior Catwalk unpicking each collection over the brand's 70 years.

Text: Christina Cacouris

Fashion critic Alexander Fury (who holds the first-ever position of Chief Fashion Correspondent for T Magazine) recently launched his first book: Dior Catwalk, a opus charting every collection of Dior from the house's inception. The storied house has had many a transformation, under multiple creative directors, and each throughout the brand's 70 years—from Yves Saint Laurent, to John Galliano, to Raf Simons— is framed and dissected by Fury.

V talks to Fury about the process of creating his first tome, and what he himself learned from its creation. Read on to hear more about his process and get a glimpse at the books that have inspired him along the way.

How did this book come to be?

This is the second in a series of catwalk books, offering comprehensive overviews of the shows of some of fashion’s greatest names. Interestingly, the book was’t intended to originally tie with either the appointment of Maria Grazia Chiuri or Dior’s anniversary (it was commissioned by Thames & Hudson, with the support of Dior - but not directly through the house). But when Chiuri was appointed, it felt like her couture debut - the house’s 70th anniversary show - would make a natural end-point for the book, allowing a rounded view of exactly seven decades of Dior.

What surprised you during your research in putting this book together?

At the same time as working on this book, I was researching another in collaboration with the catwalk photographer Chris Moore of catwalking.com, who was the first true ‘runway’ photographer. When he began working in 1957, there were no runway shows - there were salon presentations, which were open to clients and happened throughout the season, staged in the couture houses themselves. Photographers were, as a rule, not permitted. You can see that reflected in the early years of Dior: Catwalk - the images are often severely limited. Saint Laurent’s spring 1960 show is represented by still images pulled from a promotional video; the images for his ground-breaking ‘Beat’ collection are static, shot in an empty salon. It’s interesting to see the difference between these shows and the high-octane pyrotechnics of modern catwalk shows, which of course Dior has been at the very forefront of.

There is also something very interesting about discovering the work of the lesser-known talents, and indeed collections. It’s wonderful that every artistic director and every couture collection is recorded and represented in some way - it makes this a really exceptional document of Dior. Yves Saint Laurent’s work is often reduced to the ‘Trapeze’ and ‘Beat’ collections - the beginning, and the end of his career - but the innovation through his tenure is extraordinary. Marc Bohan also created beautiful things, which are now enjoying something of a renaissance through books like this, and the major Dior exhibitions in Paris and Sydney. And I am an enormous fan of Gianfranco Ferré’s work at Dior - again, something which many younger generations are discovering for the first time now.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JACKIE DIXON

What do you hope people will take away from Dior Catwalk?

For me, Dior has always been a magical name - it’s a house whose name and legacy I have been obsessed with for years. It’s one of the relatively few fashion names that resonates to an enormous audience, and that has so much power. But I think Dior is often reduced - to the Bar, to ball gowns, perhaps to fragrance and lipsticks. I hope this book encourages people to examine the entire history of Dior, to be drawn into the house’s creative universe. To look back at its heritage and realise the wonderful innovations that Dior has pioneered. Monsieur Dior said he wanted to make women dream - I’m not pretentious enough to say I wanted to do the same! But I discovered the magic of Dior as a child through reading books - I hope this can maybe inspire some of those fashion-obsessed kids out there to explore the world of Dior for themselves.

Tell us about your favorite books and ones that have inspired you.

Chic Savages, by John Fairchild

In the 1980s, Womenswear Daily - and specifically its publisher, John Fairchild - were feared and reviled by designers across the world for their biting criticism, irreverence and sardonic wit. Nobody was safe. Fairchild’s book ‘Chic Savages’ condenses decades-worth down into concentrated form, like a literary shot of expresso. It also, oddly enough, features a shot of Donald Trump on the cover. At least, my copy does. As interesting, informative and funny now as it was back then.

Allure, by Diana Vreeland

I love the idea of a book trying to pin down something as ephemeral and subjective as ‘allure’ - and I can’t think of anyone who would do it better than Diana Ireland. Incidentally, I am obsessed with Kay Thompson’s turn as unapologetically Vreelandish Maggie Prescott in ‘Funny Face’. There’s a great Chanel couture show (spring 1995) where the evening wear segment starts with Thompson screaming ‘She’s gotta have pizzaz!’ This book has lots of it.

Sultans of Style, by Georgina Howell

A collection of profiles and interviews which has no photographs but nevertheless paints a picture of each and every sitter. The title comes from the fact that Howell eschews a focus on. say, designers of socialites to encompass everyone she feels has ‘style’ - which includes the likes of Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani, but also Nancy Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s socialite Patricia Kluge. Collected from essays and articles for various magazines through the 1980s and early 1990s, it’s an extraordinary resource for any budding fashion jour list, crammed with knowledge and insight. A fascinating read.

Alaïa Livre de collection été 1992, by Prosper Assouline

I love Azzedine Alaïa. Then, now, forever. This is a remarkable book - quite difficult to get hold of (luckily, a friend of mine is a vintage book dealer and managed to snag me a copy). Compiled by Alaïa’s close friend Prosper Assouline, of the publishing house, the collection documents the creation of an entire collection - charting Alaïa at work in his studio, cutting patterns by hand, sewing, fitting and show show itself. The intimacy is remarkable, and for me absolutely representative of what makes Alaïa so great - trust, focus, and an absolute dedication to craft. It’s extraordinarily moving. I cherish it.

Credits: PHOTOGRAPH BY JON EMMONY

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