Dior puts Galliano behind it at emotional Paris show

The soul of John Galliano was laid to rest as far as Christian Dior was concerned on Friday as the famed Parisian fashion house sent out its last pret-a-porter collection from the disgraced couturier.

Not once was Galliano's name mentioned under the huge marquee behind the Musee Rodin where Dior sent out the last 62 outfits ever to be associated with the brilliant English designer who now faces charges of hurling racist insults.

"What has happened over the last week has been a terrible and wrenching ordeal for us all," said Dior's chief executive Sidney Toledano, in what must be the only time a Paris fashion show opened with something close to a eulogy.

"It has been deeply painful to see the Dior name associated with the disgraceful statements attributed to its designer, however brilliant he may be."

Dior fired Galliano on Tuesday - day one of Paris fashion week - after cafe patrons alleged that he drunkenly made anti-Semitic insults at them - a claim not helped by the emergence of a video in which Galliano says: "I love Hitler."

Galliano, 50, unseen in public since the furore erupted, apologised through his lawyers in London for his behaviour, just as French prosecutors said he would face trial by June this year, but strongly denied he is anti-Semitic.

In his remarks, on a stage that recreated in glacial blue Dior's chandeliered haute-couture showroom, Toledano recalled how the late Christian Dior's "own beloved sister had been deported to Buchenwald" during the Holocaust.

That poignant point made, it was left to 18-year-old Karlie Kloss - remarkably poised in the face of immense pressure - to open the show in a black cashmere cloak, blue leather jacket with fur collar and velvet knickerbockers.

More that just setting the tone for the show, the American model, a personal favourite of Galliano, seemed to embody the designer's flair for the flamboyant as she walked the elongated runway, the cloak flowing elegantly behind her.

In a telling twist, virtually all the models conspicuously carried Dior handbags - a highly profitable part of the Dior corporate empire.

For the finale, in lieu of Galliano striking his signature rock-star pose, Dior introduced around 50 of its "petit-mains" - the anonymous "little hands" of its ateliers who turn a designer's ideas into reality. The 800-strong crowd acknowleged them with a minute-long standing ovation.

On the way out, Grace Coddington, creative director at American Vogue, betrayed an unflagging respect for Galliano's genius as well as doubts about Dior's future without him.

"My impressions? Beautiful clothes, just beautiful clothes," she told AFP. "We'll see next time what they pull together."

Natalia Vodianova, the most notable international celebrity at a show that felt more like a funeral when the guests arrived, directed her thoughts at what she described as Galliano's struggle with alcoholism.

"John is under the influence of a disease beyond his power," she told reporters, as other models were seen with tears in their eyes as they left the backstage area that was, unusually, declared off-limits to the press.

Galliano's own eponymous ready-to-wear label, majority owned by Dior, was scheduled to be sent out on Sunday, but that show has since been downgraded to a simple presentation for buyers and journalists.

rom/har

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