Monday, July 4, 2011

Days of Strangeness at Dior

Things must be unusual these days at the House of Dior, judging by the high fashion show they saw this afternoon at the Musee Rodin. All sorts of weird vibes, along with a lack of design leadership, have a way of surfacing in clothes. A runway is like a shrink's couch; stuff comes out.

For some reason I had the idea that this collection would be an interim deal until Dior could hire a successor to John Galliano. Not having a show would have been unthinkable because the Dior machinery has other products, like fine jewelry, to keep promoting, & the hoopla of a couture show, small or not, is a great way to keep distracted people at least small interested.

Oh, yeah - Dior. So I was a small surprised that the house gave a lot play to Bill Gaytten, a studio assistant, who came to Dior in 1999 with Mr. Galliano. You would think that the management - Sidney Toledano, the chief executive of Dior, & his boss, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton - were road-testing Mr. Gaytten for the job. (He was recently named creative director of the Galliano brand.)

I've known Mr. Gaytten for a decade. I met him in the Dior studio with Mr. Galliano & Steven Robinson, a close collaborator of Mr. Galliano's for lots of years, who oversaw virtually every detail of the collections. (Mr. Robinson died unexpectedly in 2007.) It appeared to be an excellent creative team, backed up by Dior's ateliers, & Mr. Gaytten's strength was in pattern-cutting. I am liking Mr. Gaytten. He's a sweetheart, but he is not a designer.

Backstage, Mr. Gaytten said it was time to do something a bit more modern at Dior. & when asked if he wanted the creative director job, he said, "Yeah, I do", & added, "I'm not a fool."

The collection introduced today, with modern architectural shapes as the reference (at least that explains the dumb cubes & balls embedded in the model's hair), was a hodgepodge. I had the feeling that Mr. Gaytten, without providing much guidance, let the studio hands play with free-form shapes. There were multicolored jackets with full pleated skirts in contrasting squiggle patterns. The tutti-frutti palette, with jolts of turquoise, recalled the Memphis design movement. Other dresses in metallic silk, with overlapping squares, made you think of Frank Gehry's buildings. That immaculate Dior polish was not evident. Some long flowing dresses in hand-painted silk looked contemporary , but for the most part the garments looked like over-bright costumes.

But any way you try to romance this collection with modern architects, it looked to me as though lots of hands were in the pie as well as a number of them might have belonged to management, which is seldom a lovely suggestion. You wind up with a mess. I can't imagine Karl Lagerfeld not being 100 percent in charge at Chanel (I had a peek last night at a number of his couture dresses, & they're awesome discuss simple architecture). & the same goes for Azzedine Alaia, who will show on Thursday.

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