- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

PARIS Hoots and thunderous applause erupted from backstage, but the audience at the Dior show Monday greeted the storied label’s fall-winter 2011-12 haute couture with a short-lived flurry of halfhearted claps.

The collection was the first in 15 years not under the label’s disgraced former creative director, John Galliano - and it showed.

Season after season, the flamboyant British designer churned out blockbuster collections that inventively reinterpreted founder Christian Dior’s hallmark silhouettes - the nip-waisted Bar jackets and full, feminine skirts that revolutionized fashion after World War II. Mr. Galliano was summarily sacked in March after a video showing him praising Hitler went viral on the Internet, and he stood trial in Paris on anti-Semitism charges last month.

A successor has not yet been named, so it was with bated breath that the small audience of fashion insiders waited to see who would take to the stage Monday for a post-show bow. The man who emerged was Bill Gaytten, a fellow Briton who was Mr. Galliano’s longtime right-hand man.

Mr. Gaytten was named creative director of Mr. Galliano’s signature line, John Galliano, last month, but Dior executives were quick to stress that he hadn’t taken the reins at Dior, one of the world’s top brands and the jewel in the crown of luxury giant LVMH.

“Mr. Gaytten has done this collection, but he is not artistic director.” Dior President Sidney Toledano told journalists backstage in a post-show interview. “We are taking our time because we want to find a long-term solution, and many hypotheses are being explored.”

Given the audience’s tepid reaction to Monday’s show, it seemed likely that Mr. Gaytten would prove more of a stopgap measure.

The collection simply lacked cohesion. With sections that channeled the fluorescent pop esthetic of the 1980s, a sort of 1970s Marrakech bohemian vibe, and shiny modernist architecture, the show felt like a bunch of ideas thrown almost randomly together. It was like watching three shows in one - and not a particularly inspiring three shows, at that.

The nipped jackets and pouffy skirts were embellished with the sort of amoeba-shaped appliques in eyepopping shades that were last seen on the costumes of 1987 teen pop sensation Tiffany and worn with oversized plastic cubes or spheres in the guise of hats. Oversized ball gowns made from petals of delicate chiffon were accessorized with the kinds of cheap glitter-covered novelty headbands you might wear to ring in the New Year, and you couldn’t quite tell if sparkly bits on the bodices were part of the dresses or just shreds of confetti.

Mr. Gaytten told journalists that Mr. Galliano’s absence hadn’t made much of a difference in the creative process, but the runway belied his words.

Fashion insiders were hoping Monday’s uneven results would push Dior to end the suspense and designate an official successor to a man who is nothing if not a hard act to follow.

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