Christian Dior Designer: On the Doorstep?
The black and white, filmic Christian Dior haute couture show on Monday marked nearly a year since John Galliano left the brand in disgrace.
But Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, confirmed that there would be no announcement about a new designer this week and that the “suspense” would continue.
After a rigorous, correct and undeniably “Dior” show, this question must be asked: Is the elusive successor on the doorstep?
The collection by Bill Gaytten, Mr. Galliano’s right hand for his entire career, was way ahead of the previous couture show, which was a romp that looked as if it had been done by a bunch of art college kids.
This version was technically persuasive: an x-ray image of the essence of Dior, from the famous Bar Jacket, sleek and chic in black alligator, to romantic dresses, light as the proverbial feather. One had a full skirt printed with Christian Dior’s maxim, defining “elegance” as the right combination of crucial factors, including “naturalness and simplicity.”
Neither was Mr. Galliano’s forte and most fashion folk feel that the former designer would, in any case, have had to calm his excess to take the brand ahead.
In every sense, this show on the first day of the brief couture season was Dior Light. There was not much personality or charm, yet a careful rendition of the codes of the house, including houndstooth check created with embroidered beading. The lush, full skirts, which shocked the world in 1947, would have given those post-war women the vapors if the skirts had shifted transparently over the legs, as in this 2012 summer show.
Yet this couture collection was surely client-friendly (even if that means asking for a silk lining.)
“I loved the gray one — the third one,” chorused the front-row guests Cameron Diaz and Bar Refaeli, referring to full-skirted dresses, cinched at the waist and offered first in white and then black.
That cinematic effect — what Mr. Gaytten called “like playing with the photocopier” — both suggested a graceful Grace Kelly world and summed up the positive/negative qualities of the show: It was technically a model of perfection with some exceptional effects, like sequins trapped against the breasts, but it was emotionally barren.
And yet with other projects, like the graphic, colorful accessories produced by Delphine Arnault working with the Berlin artist Anselm Reyle, could Dior use a solid, maybe even stolid, couture collection as a backdrop?
Other houses, like Gucci, have decided that internal promotion can work as well as bringing in an outside designer. And if the rumors are true that seven designers already approached have either been turned down or backed away, Mr. Gaytten himself, trained in couture, might be the best person to drink and digest the poisoned chalice.
Donatella Versace brought her Atelier Versace collection back to Paris with panache. Sexy, colorful, gleaming with metal and twinkling with ceramic paillettes, the dresses were as defined for the red carpet as for the golden stairway down which the models teetered.
The sensational gowns worn by Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman at the Golden Globes were just a foretaste of this new collection, which Ms. Versace said was destined for a fresh, young couture clientele, often from Russia.
“People have not stopped dreaming,” the designer said, to justify this extravagance during economic turmoil.
Never has a collection been better described as a “body of work.” It seemed that Ms. Versace’s eyes were always on the womanly curves, which she caressed with curving metal at the hips or displayed through strips of hand-embroidered lace running from waist to ankle. When legs were in view, three separate parts of a sandal climbed from instep to knees. The actress Abbie Cornish could not take her eyes off the tomato-red slither of a dress or a romper suit in vivid yellow.
It was a Versace tour de force that came, said the designer, as a reaction to her H&M collaboration’s appeal to young clients. But don’t count on finding a silver mermaid dress in the fast-fashion stores.
The precise tailoring of Bouchra Jarrar , softened this season with fur collars and wisps of silk, confirm her position as a woman-for-women designer.
Made-to-order tailoring, which is having such a boost with male clients, is mostly left out of current couture. But Ms. Jarrar aims to carry forward the tradition, using slim, firm lines in a collection that might suit a stylish female executive rather than an oligarch’s wife.
Using fabrics like simple gray flannel or denim blue wool, but softening the coat or jacket with fur at the neck, Ms. Jarrar sent out tailored pants — perhaps adding a leather harness to give the outfit some fizz. Silken dresses in face-powder colors looked soft and pretty but the strength was in the streamlined daywear tinged with turquoise and green.
One might have craved a dash of madness but the elegant proportions were an admirable example of client friendly couture.
Quoting Marcel Proust is always a dangerous game for a designer — especially when the translation of a phrase about “only women who do not know how to dress are afraid of colors” was headed: “Color Therapy.”
In the hands of the young designer Alexis Mabille , that came down to the fuchsia pink duchess satin gown that opened the show with a matching, mighty flower hat and makeup. When that outfit was followed by oxblood, coral, or blue, with face to suit, the effect was distracting.
Yet, at his simplest, Mr. Mabille can make pretty evening dresses, embroidered with the flowers that were the more genuine theme. Chantilly lace inserts and layers of organza were a more successful way to play with youthful elegance than Proust’s advice on color coding.