Sans Galliano

Under longtime creative director , Dior took on almost superhuman proportions, with larger-than-life collections and shows to the scale of the British designer’s prodigious talent. The house returned to human size on Friday, as Galliano’s replacement fielded his debut ready-to-wear effort, a scaled-down spring-summer 2012 collection stripped of excess.

Models in discreet makeup _ not the extravagant war-paint of the Galliano’s years _ sported pretty, wearable skirt suits in neutral shades of chiffon. Gone were Galliano’s maxi-volumes and the over-the-top riffs on outrageous themes, replaced by an appealing array of wearable, sellable clothes.

Galliano was summarily dismissed last March after allegations surfaced he made anti-Semitic and racist comments during a drunken encounter at a Paris watering hole. His longtime right-hand-man, fellow Briton Bill Gaytten, stepped in as a temporary replacement during Dior’s ongoing search for a successor.

As the head of Dior’s women’s studio, Gaytten was behind the label’s disastrous last couture collection _ presented in July to universally terrible reviews _ and so many fashion insiders went into Friday’s show expecting the worst. But those (gleefully) anticipating another train wreck on the catwalk had another thing coming: While the collection won’t go down in the annals of the storied house, it was a totally respectable showing for Gaytten and his team.

They drew on the time-honored codes of the label, sending out variations on the nip-waisted Bar jacket and tulip-shaped skirts in graphic black-and-white checks and soft sandy neural tones. The evening gowns, in powder blue and black organza, were of an understated elegance.

Dior executives have made it clear that Gaytten is but a stopgap measure, to be replaced by a top-name designer. The rumor mill has thrown out the names of practically everyone who’s anyone in fashion _ from Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz to Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Trade industry paper Women’s Wear Daily reported a deal was close to being struck with Louis Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs, but no announcement has been made, leading some to speculate negotiations with the superstar New York designer have derailed.

Whatever the status of the search, Gaytten’s strong performance Friday certainly takes the pressure off Dior to find a permanent solution.

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