Despite the frenetic rumours surrounding the identity of the next creative director at Christian Dior, which dismissed the British designer John Galliano in February after he was arrested for anti-Semitism, the French fashion house demonstrated a cool head as it presented its ready-to-wear collections in Paris yesterday.
Bill Gaytten, who worked with Galliano for more than 20 years and has now formally taken over his signature line (to be shown on Sunday) is also overseeing the Dior studio until the powers that be appoint a replacement, most recently rumoured to be the American designer, Marc Jacobs.
In the meantime, Gaytten is following his own path. And so banished were the over-the-top hair and make up and freakishly vertiginous footwear Galliano was known for in favour of a perfectly bourgeois and soignee appearance that some might argue the Dior customer aspires to.
In places this collection was simple to the point of being unremarkable, but given the economic climate such play-safe tactics are unsurprising, particularly during an interim period for Dior. Sweet silk summer dresses predominantly in bright scarlet or pale and interesting colours and printed with roses were easy on the eye, cinched with slim belts at the waist, and with knee-length full, bouncing skirts. Tailored jackets and day coats, equally, were as polite as madame might wish them to be. Earlier this week, and with considerable pragmatism, Gaytten, 50, told Women's Wear Daily: "Circumstances have been forced upon me. The position's changed but the work is the same. I'm not 21. I've been doing it for a while."
Having studied architecture in London, Gaytten decided that: "I was much more interested in fashion," and bought himself a sewing machine. He worked for the British designer Sheridan Barnett before meeting Galliano soon after the latter's Central Saint Martins 1984 degree collection catapulted him to instant fame, and began working for him. Galliano's first business was short-lived but when he set up again in 1994 he invited Gaytten to join him. In 1996, when Galliano was appointed creative director of Dior, Gaytten followed.
While the designer is certainly experienced, this most recent offering, though not as confusing as July's haute couture collection, was not enough to earn him the top job – and that's presuming he would actually want it. As well as Jacobs, currently the creative force behind Louis Vuitton, in the past six months everyone from Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière to Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton have been name-checked as potential successors to Galliano, who was found guilty last month of anti-Semitism after an encounter outside a Paris café.
Jacobs would be a suitably grand appointment but, any scandal aside, and as his studio's collections have demonstrated since his abrupt departure, John Galliano remains a tough act to follow.
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