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Frills but no thrills: Gaytten plays safe with Dior collection

Galliano's heir apparent has played it cool yet again. Can he ever be more than just a safe pair of hands?

It is just over a year since John Galliano was dismissed from his post as creative director of Christian Dior. Since that time Bill Gaytten, who worked with him for more than 20 years, has presided over two haute couture seasons and, yesterday in Paris, the designer showed his third ready-to-wear collection for the house.

"A soft modernity runs through the Dior fall/winter 2012 collection," read the show notes. Minimal hair and make-up aside, there was in fact little contemporary about the procession of drop-shouldered jackets nipped at the waist with wide leather belts, full, knife-pleated skirts that fell to mid-calf, leather-trimmed fur coats and billowing chiffon eveningwear on display here.

It is true that Gaytten nodded to a muted autumn colour palette and to a certain austerity that has been seen on some runways this season but that is not what is expected of Dior, a name synonymous with nostalgia and romance. More recently, of course, Galliano introduced sex to the equation and that too was conspicuous by it absence.

Instead, here, arguably, were the sort of clothes the more conservative fashion follower might like to buy but there was little to tempt her more radical younger sister into the fold. More importantly, it is the job of names like this one to make dreams as well as dresses and it is off the back of the former that money-spinning accessories, fragrance and make-up sell. With that in mind, and for all his efforts, not to mention use of the house's signatures – in particular the hound's tooth check, the tailoring borrowed from menswear and the New Look line – this show fell flat.

Although Gaytten has been officially appointed Galliano's successor at his signature line, which will be shown in Paris tomorrow, his position at Dior has yet to be confirmed. Instead rumours continue.

Last week Raf Simons was reported to be taking the creative helm following his recent departure from Jil Sander. Over the summer, meanwhile, it is believed that the powers that be at Dior were in talks with Marc Jacobs. These reached an impasse, insiders say, due to the American designer's excessive contractual demands.

Whatever happens Gaytten has demonstrated an extremely cool and competent head throughout this furore and, perhaps partly for that reason, is still very much part of the picture. He may not be the most inspired choice but, in the short term at least, is clearly considered a safe pair of hands.

In the meantime, Dior will only benefit from any speculation: for the past year the famous French name has been more newsworthy than ever if not always for the right reasons.