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For Jeauni Cassanova, their vintage Dior collection is all about setting their feminine side free.
While you can’t buy self-love, you can buy vintage Dior, and for Jeauni (pronounced “Joo-nee”) Cassanova, this sparked a journey with unexpected rewards. The New Jersey artist has accumulated 70+ pieces of John Galliano-era Dior goodness in fewer than five years. “It just all unravelled in front of me,” Cassanova laughs. “Every time I bought something, it would be my opportunity to fall in love with another collection and then buy more.”
For those in need of a reminder, Galliano was the creative director of Christian Dior from 1996 to 2011. His tenure was defined by unapologetic opulence and romance, where fantasy and frivolity were prioritized over function. Thanks to him, we have the saddlebag, Kate Moss’s wedding gown and the iconic newspaper dress forever immortalized by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. “His designs celebrate divine femininity,” Cassanova explains. “Sometimes they’re sexy; then they’re rough or playful. He makes femininity multi-dimensional.” This is a concept that the collector only came to terms with recently.
Cassanova has always been a hopeless romantic mesmerized by beautiful things. Listing Lil’ Kim, Lady Gaga and Marilyn Monroe as some of their earliest influences, the collector explains that they all share a “romantic connection with the world, a desire to be seen, loved and validated,” while also challenging the conventions of beauty and femininity. Case in point: Inspired by Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Cassanova wore gravity-defying heelless platforms every day in high school.
Fast-forward a few years and they went through what they describe as a “masculine boy phase” in reaction to feeling undesirable in the dating world. “I had been through a very traumatic relationship where my partner used my femininity as a punching bag,” Cassanova explains. “So I put my feminine self in a cage.”
Call it divine (or designer) intervention, but something immediately clicked when they bought their first Galliano-era item in 2018. “Most of my pieces are emotional checkpoints for the relationship I have with myself,” Cassanova reflects. “The more I surrendered to Galliano’s world, the more I was able to surrender to my own femininity.”
Enter the ruffles, romantic silhouettes and overall reverence for camp that consume the collector’s closet. Quintessential ’90s and 2000s archetypes abound. Textures range from oversized bouclé knits to luxe crocodile leathers. And the entire eccentric assortment reads like a fabulous fever dream.
But that’s not to say that Cassanova hasn’t experienced a few nightmares. After purchasing a rare mini blue saddlebag from Dior’s Fall 2000 collection, the collector took the purse to a leather restoration service. When it was returned, Cassanova saw that it was ruined; they were traumatized. “I sat on my front porch and cried in the rain,” they remember. “I’d never seen this bag on sale before, so I thought I had destroyed a part of history.” Luckily, they eventually found someone who could fix it, and the bag ended up looking more vintage than ever.
Despite the occasional sartorial heartache, Cassanova reiterates that the reason for their reservoir is that the items make them feel the most like themselves. “During every step of my journey with Dior, I was slowly letting myself be free,” they share. “My collection is a love letter to my divine feminine self — it just makes me come alive.”
This article first appeared in FASHION’s October 2023 issue. Find out more here.