- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2011

PARIS (AP) - Likely motivated by equal parts love and admiration and morbid curiosity, fashion insiders descended Sunday on a tony Paris townhouse to see what could very well be the last ever collection by John Galliano, the brilliant British designer whose undoing last week has shocked and horrified the industry.

Galliano’s longtime employer, luxury supernova Dior, fired him last Tuesday amid allegations he made anti-Semitic insults and after a video showing a drunk Galliano saying “I love Hitler” went viral on the Internet.

The saga, which has riveted the fashion world for the past ten days and cast a palpable pall over Paris’ ready-to-wear displays, also threw the future of the designer’s signature label into doubt. The John Galliano brand is owned by Dior parent company LVMH Moet Hennessy.

For several days after Galliano’s surprise sacking, it wasn’t clear whether his label’s fall-winter 2011-12 ready-to-wear collection would be shown to the press and buyers at all. But finally company executives settled on holding a low-key presentation instead of the big-budget blockbuster runway shows that have become a trademark of the house.

Galliano, who is rumored to be in rehab in Arizona, wasn’t present at Sunday’s display. But for those who love his work, it was a moving moment, and one to savor.

There were only 19 looks, but they all fairly oozed Galliano’s unmistakable style. The models’ makeup, too, and their languid walk and exaggerated poses were exactly as the designer would have done it himself.

Asked whether Sunday’s presentation would help turn the page on the Galliano scandal, Style.com senior editor Tim Blanks said: “It’s going to take a while. This is like an open wound for the industry and it’s going to take a long time to fully heal over.”

Though Galliano is all anyone seems to talk about these days, Sunday also included shows by other heavy-hitters, including Celine, Hermes, Kenzo and Givenchy _ which was the object of intense scrutiny because the rumor mill has it that its young Italian designer, Riccardo Tisci, is a top contender to replace Galliano.

The line up on Monday, day seven of Paris’ nine-day-long fashion week, is also a substantial one, with shows by Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, Chloe and Emanuel Ungaro.

JOHN GALLIANO

The event showcased just 19 looks _ fewer than half of what would typically be shown on the catwalk.

Models in full Galliano regalia traced lazy circles around Baroque, flower-covered centerpieces, pausing in front of the photographers’ pits to strike exaggerated poses.

The clothing, bias cut gowns in sheer chiffon and oversized outerwear, was old school Galliano. Voluminous tweed jackets were paired with pencil skirts _ some of them in pastel tinged latex _ and flirty little pleated sundresses poked out from beneath fur-trimmed parkas. Marabou feathers undulated lazily from the hemline and sleeves of a long, lean gown in black silk that glinted with sequins.

At the Dior show on Friday _ where the full 60-odd-look, Galliano-overseen collection was shown without the designer _ the makeup was toned down. But the girls at Galliano were in their full splendor, their lips painted into dark, little bow shapes, their eyes heavy with liner and shadow and their cheeks shimmering with pinky blush.

Maybe it was the eyepopping makeup and garb, or the golden afternoon sun that streamed in through the windows, but the general mood at Sunday’s presentation was lighter, less somber than at the almost funereal Dior show.

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