Post-Galliano Dior embraces eclecticism

PARIS, Gersende Rambourg- Christian Dior, taking its time finding a successor to John Galliano, firmly distanced itself from the disgraced British designer Monday with an eclectic collection at the Paris haute couture shows.
Four months after firing Galliano over alleged racist slurs, Dior tasked his longtime right-hand man Bill Gaytten to oversee a show inspired by everything from early 1980s Paris nightlife to the architect Frank Gehry.

Not that Galliano -- who is in rehab and awaiting a verdict on September 8 after standing trial last month -- was far from the minds of guests in the marquee at the rear of the Musee Rodin on the Left Bank.
"I miss John so much," Anna Dello Russo, editor-in-chief of Japanese Vogue, told AFP in the museum garden that is home to Rodin's famous sculpture "The Thinker".
"I'm spoiled because I grew up these past 15 years with his phenomenal couture -- perfect, impeccable, flawless," she said, before adding: "The new reality is interesting, too. Some ideas are excellent."
Gaytten, 51, an Englishman now steering the Dior-owned John Galliano label, took the bow at the end of the show, joined by his first assistant Susanna Venegas.
But Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano told AFP that the celebrated Parisian fashion house -- the keystone of French tycoon Bernard Arnault's global luxury goods empire -- was in no hurry to pick a new creative director.
"You know when you ask young girls all the time when they are going to get married, they reply: 'When I find the right man'," he said, adding that "all options" were on the table.
Backstage, Gaytten opted for discretion, saying that working without the flamboyant Galliano "wasn't so different ... you need to be more self-reliant, but it gives you a little bit more freedom."
Rather than dip into Dior's archives ("We've done a lot of that recently"), Gaytten drew vision from the heyday of the Palace nightclub as well as Gehry's curvaceous buildings and the work of graphic artist Jean-Paul Goude.
The result was looks that built upon Dior's signature belted silhouette, typified by enormous geometric forms, in colours that moved from bright blues and greens to beige with origami-like folds.
Whimsical headwear included shooting stars and crescent moons -- and in another break with the past, Dior's star model, the US high school grad Karlie Kloss, closed rather than opened the show, in a voluminous wedding dress.
In other shows, Anne Valerie Hash celebrated the 10th anniversary of her Parisian house with 10 designs encapsulating her passion for elegant, feminine cutting and draping with Italian silk crepe, organza and mousseline.
She made two of each outfit: one for wooden mannequins in the centre of the gilded salon that hosted the relaxed show, the others worn in turns by just two models -- Zimbabwe-born Nyasha Manthondze and Jamaica's Shena Moulton.
"The secret of surviving in this business?" Hash told AFP after the show. "To apply yourself, not to look too much at what others are doing, make your own road, stay humble and simple -- and work."
Similarly feminine was Christophe Josse, whose creations on Monday appeared to adopt a new maturity in the wake of his elevation to the exclusive ranks of haute couture last year.
Particularly well-received was the wedding dress that married a glittering white bustier with a thousand squares of fringed organza, but Josse was already looking forward to his next pret-a-porter collection.
It would be "thoughtful and seductive," he said, adding: "The dress must remain a beautiful object, not just a frock."

Monday, July 4th 2011
Gersende Rambourg

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