Galliano absence felt at Dior haute couture show

Mon Jul 4, 2011 1:38pm EDT

* Dior CEO says no successor for Galliano found yet

* Buyers like haute couture show; fashionistas frown

By Nick Vinocur

PARIS, July 4 (Reuters Life!) - Music blared and colours blazed at Christian Dior's autumn/winter haute couture show on Monday, but fashionistas said the collection sorely missed former designer John Galliano's direction.

The Parisian house known for untouchably chic and bold designs has yet to choose a successor for Galliano, who was fired from his role as top designer in March after a video surfaced of him making anti-Semitic comments at a Parisian bar.

In his absence, studio head and longtime Galliano collaborator Bill Gaytten put together an eclectic collection that pleased buyers, but failed to convince fashion die-hards that Dior can sail on much longer without a skipper at the helm.

Famous faces were few and far between at the show, which was staged with less than usual fanfare in the sun-splashed Left Bank Parisian garden of the Musee Rodin -- a sign that Dior's executive caste may be waiting for new direction before splashing out on heavy marketing.

Dior Chief Executive Sidney Toledano, speaking to journalists after the show, gave no hint that the search for a suitable successor to Galliano would end soon.

"We are taking our time, we want to find a long-term solution... All options are still open," said Toledano, who declined to specify how long the search could last.

FIVE SHOWS IN ONE

Gaytten, helped by assistant Suzanna Venegas, gave an explosive start to his show with a bass boom that startled audiences and a series of layered taffeta aquamarine skirts paired with three-dimensional geometric headdresses.

Models with outlandish, finger-in-the-socket hairstyles marched out wearing outfits whose angular details and cheerful colour-scheme vaguely recalled 1990s roller-skating chic.

As DJs blasted music mixed from traffic sounds, the collection lurched in a different direction, with a series of rose- and khaki-coloured short jackets festooned with layers of shimmering mirrors, blinking gold and white in the spotlights.

Another mini-collection featured floor-length, sari-like gowns encrusted with glinting jewels, in what some said was an outstretched hand to emerging market buyers from the Far East.

"I loved the colourful long dresses," said Ekaterina Kormich, a Russian model and haute couture buyer.

"I don't think it has lost the Dior touch at all," said Stephanie Kauffman, also a high fashion buyer, from New York.

Bernadette Chirac, wife of former French president Jacques Chirac and a fixture at Parisian haute couture shows, told Reuters she liked a series of flowing gowns with arms like wings: "It was beautiful, the long dresses were superb."

The fashion press, however, was less enthused by Gaytten's collection, which many criticised as lacking a unifying idea and too clearly geared toward emerging market buyers.

"I miss so much John Galliano," said Anna Dello Rosso, fashion editor-at-large for Vogue Japan. "This is closer to the market, but now I miss the strong ideas."

Others were harsher. "If this is any proof, they need to find someone to replace Galliano fast," said one fashion journalist who asked not to be named. (Additional reporting by Mathilde Gardin, editing by Paul Casciato)

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