More relaxed mood prevails at Galliano own-label show

John Galliano - the label, not the man - presented its fall-winter collection on Sunday in the intimate surroundings of a Parisian salon, and in a far more relaxed atmosphere, after a week that saw the spectacular fall from grace of the iconic British couturier.

Eschewing Galliano's signature passion for bigger-than-life theatrics, the lower-key presentation saw some of the world's top models emerge from a tall mirrored door into two adjoining drawing rooms to pose in a limited number of outfits with an unmistakeable 1920s flavour.

Notable among the guests was Sidney Toledano, chief executive of Christian Dior, which abruptly fired Galliano - facing trial later this spring for alleged anti-Semitic remarks - on day one of Paris fashion week last Tuesday.

"In trying times, you have to move forward and stay the course," Toledano told AFP, adding that while he has never missed a Galliano show, he wanted this time "to be here to support the teams" which put the looks together.

Christian Dior, a cornerstone of French tycoon Bernard Arnault's global luxury goods empire, holds a majority stake in the John Galliano label.

The mood on Sunday was a world away from the funereal atmosphere that haunted the full-scale Christian Dior show on Friday where the venerable Paris fashion house resolutely distanced itself from its chief designer of 15 years.

Tactfully left unstated, too, was the fact that Sunday's elegant venue on Avenue Foch was the Hotel Blumenthal, built in 1900 for a rich American leather merchant and art collector of German Jewish heritage.

But while the 50-year-old designer is reportedly getting help for alcoholism at an exclusive substance abuse clinic in Arizona, his imagination - and his fascination with times past - very much informed the designs.

As Galliano would have had it, the teenaged American model Karlie Kloss opened the presentation in a checkered grey tweed jacket, mottled skirt cut just below the knee, and tall black felt hat.

More tweeds and furs followed, belted tightly at the waist, testifying to Galliano's strong sense of tailoring, with evening wear distinguished by sheer flowing fabrics in deep violet and somber green shades.

No doubt relieved not to walk a runway for a change, the models struck elegant poses against such trappings of 1920s decor as teddy bears, rocking horses, hunting-dog paintings and Louis XVI chairs.

Gibraltar-born and London-bred Galliano, 50, was seen by many as one of the finest designers of his generation before he was grilled by police over a complaint that he uttered anti-Semitic remarks at a chic Paris cafe.

Then a mobile-phone video emerged in which he is seen at the same cafe, La Perle, apparently drunk and saying "I love Hitler" - prompting Dior to sack him as prosecutors announced he would be charged over his purported remarks.

Through his lawyers in London, Galliano apologised for his conduct, but firmly denied being anti-Semitic.

But as he reportedly sought help for alcoholism - incidentally, only fresh fruit juice was served at Sunday's presentation - his future in fashion remains very much in question.

Equally unknown is who will follow him at the creative helm of Dior or the label that bears his name. Asked by AFP what thought has gone into naming a successor, Taledano just waved his hands and flashed a beguiling smile.

In other shows on Sunday, Phoebe Philo at Celine - another brand in the Arnault stable - did not fail to disappoint her many fans with a tastefully elegant fall-winter collection that blended leather and fur.

Hermes, the family-owned house that Arnault wants to acquire, unveiled its first collection from its new designer Christophe Lemaire, formerly at Lacoste, at its new Paris boutique situated in a one-time swimming pool.

Alexis Mabille meanwhile sent out styles for an insouciant and eclectic woman that mixed vintage and contemporary ideas and drew inspiration from the young couturier's far-flung travels.

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