Show goes on sans Galliano

It was something like business as usual for Christian Dior yesterday as the autumn/winter 2011 show went ahead after the dismissal earlier this week of creative director John Galliano.

Yet at the same time, the mood as the collection was unveiled was utterly unfamiliar. Sidney Toledano, Dior's CEO, opened the show with a statement that spoke of the house's rich history in the face of recent events.

"It has been deeply painful to see the Dior name associated with the disgraceful statements attributed to its designer, however brilliant he may be," he told the audience. "Such statements are intolerable because of our collective duty never to forget the Holocaust and its victims, and because of the respect for human dignity that is owed to each person and all peoples."

Galliano, who is accused of making anti-Semitic comments to a couple in a bar, was not at the show. But his absence was tangible, from the expectant crowd gathered outside the Musée Rodin to the collection itself, which was shot through with hallmarks of the talent that made him a household name.

There were tulle and silk dresses, with the designer's signature lingerie detailing, as well as fluid capes and whimsical knickerbockers. But it lacked the drama of a Galliano collection: the atmosphere was subdued, and there were few famous faces in the crowd.

Natalie Portman, the face of a Dior perfume, who disowned the designer and refused to wear a Dior gown to last weekend's Oscars, was especially notable by her absence. Referring to the studio's petits mains, the artisans who make designs a reality, Toledano put further distance between the house and its former head designer.

"What you are now going to see," he said as he introduced the show, "is the result of the extraordinary, creative and marvellous effort of loyal, hardworking people".

The message was plain: Dior can continue without a flamboyant figurehead or celebrity endorsement. This was not about showmanship, rather an ability to endure. At the end of the presentation, an army of around 40 members of the design team came on stage to whoops and cheers from the audience. It was obvious that Dior had extricated itself from potential scandal.

But as the final model took her turn, in a recognisably Galliano-esque sheer frilled gown, she blew a coquettish kiss. And the audience, as well as the industry more widely, understood that when John Galliano left the building this week, he took something special with him.

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