- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2011

PARIS (AP) - The house that John Galliano built is now that of Bill Gaytten.

Never heard of him? Neither had most of the fashion editors, journalists, stylists and buyers at Friday’s spring-summer 2012 menswear display at John Galliano, the label that bears the name of the disgraced designer who was sacked from Christian Dior and his own signature label earlier this year after a video showing him praising Hitler went viral on the internet.

The house of Galliano, which is owned by Dior parent company LVMH, had not announced a replacement for the wildly inventive British designer, and so when Gaytten _ a fellow Briton who was long a close Galliano collaborator _ shyly took to the catwalk for a post-show bow, members of the audience shot one another puzzled glances and shrugged their shoulders in bewilderment.

Label officials said Gaytten had officially taken the mantle of creative director for the brand as he set foot on the runway Friday.

“Things change, things move on, that’s life,” Gaytten summed it up after the show, which capped day three of a Paris menswear week overshadowed by the ongoing Galliano saga.

The designer’s trial Wednesday on anti-Semitism and racism charges coincided with the first day of the shows here. The tale that emerged from the court proceedings of a creative genius pushed to the brink by the ever-rising pressures of the fashion industry was worthy of Balzac, and the story of his alcohol-soaked, pill-popping fall from grace had many of the fashion insiders packed into the Paris courtroom on the brink of tears.

Still, there was more to Friday’s displays than just Galliano.

Military drab bloomed with tropical flowers and sweatshirts scintilated with sequins at Givenchy, with a ravishing collection that was equal parts couture and gangsta.

Stefano Pilati, the master tailor from Yves Saint Laurent, delivered a mouthwatering selection of jackets for every mood and occasion (though, sadly, not for every budget.) Madcap Belgian Walter Van Beirendonck angled for an altogether bolder demographic with ball-shaped, tulle-covered forms that swallowed the models up to their knees, turning them into walking topiary.

Another Belgian, Kris Van Assche delivered a sober collection in a nearly monochrome palette of charcoal greys. For his signature line, Van Assche, who also designs menswear for Dior Homme, looked to the mod movement, sending out high-water, drop-crotched trousers with Harrington jackets.

At crosstown rival Balmain, Olivier Rousteing made his debut since replacing Christophe Decarnin as the label’s supervising designer for the men’s and women’s lines in April. Roustaing was promoted from within weeks after Decarnin failed to show up for the March women’s fashion show, sparking rumors he’d had a nervous breakdown. A spokesman for the company insisted he was just resting on doctor’s orders.

With the spring-summer collection shown in a showroom presentation, Rousteing remained true to Decarnin’s vision of the Balmain man as a luxury rocker. Hardcore biker jackets and trousers remained core piece, though Rousteign pumped up the color, dousing the pieces in a florescent rainbow. Knockout pieces included a sleek tuxedo jacket entirely in black crocodile.

Brazilian-born, Paris-based designer Gustavo Lins also sent out a florescent-saturated collection that paired lime green jackets with sumptuous trousers in charcoal knits. Held in a postage stamp-sized art gallery in central Paris, the earnest show was a welcome change from the over-produced blockbusters staged by the luxury giants, where everything goes off without a hitch.

Once the day of frantic racing from show to show was complete, the fashion circus descended on the Petit Palais, where French sportswear label Lacoste was feteing its collaboration with American interior design giant Jonathan Adler, who collaborated on a special edition of polo shirts embossed with oversized striped crocodiles.

Paris’ five-day-long menswear extravaganza enters the final stretch on Saturday, with shows at Dior Homme, Kenzo and Maison Martin Margiela.

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