Tears and Applause at Dior
By SUZY MENKES
PARIS — It should have been a moment of fashion glamour — the spring sunshine lighting up the Rodin sculptures of romantic love. But not a petal of a flower welcomed guests to Dior ’s latest show on Friday, where a black tent with black chairs marked the last and final collection of its disgraced designer, John Galliano.
“It’s more like a funeral,” said the photographer Mario Testino, who, like most of the audience, had witnessed the tumultuous rise and extraordinary showmanship of the last 15 Galliano years at Dior.
Delphine Arnault, the daughter of the LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, who was noticeably absent, wiped away tears at the show’s end, when the entire atelier team in their white coats lined up at the end of the runway, with the audience on its feet to applaud them.
Before the first swashbuckling cape or pretty dress, with each model tossing loose curly hair and swinging the inevitable bag, had walked the runway, Sidney Toledano, Dior’s chief executive, made a speech. In it, he described the firing of Mr. Galliano, after allegations of disgraceful and anti-Semitic comments, as “a terrible and wrenching ordeal for us all.”
“Christian Dior’s values, his genius and his legacy have contributed to enhancing France’s image and culture for more than 60 years,” the executive said, adding that ‘’the heart of the house of Dior, which beats unseen, is made up of its teams and studios, its seamstresses and craftsmen.”
If it is true that Mr. Galliano, now in rehab for alcohol problems, could not do much preparatory work for this autumn 2011 collection, the show was a fine tribute to those “petites mains,” or little hands.
The swirling capes worn with velvet breeches and laced-up boots that opened the show had the usual touch of theater while a flow of short, flirty dresses, under fluffy furs or pert jackets, followed the romantic path that Mr. Galliano had forged.
The creative partners who supported Mr. Galliano over the years hardly had a look in: the milliner Stephen Jones had only a sprinkling of sensible felt hats and the makeup artist Pat McGrath created none of her dramatis personæ. There were none of Michael Howells’s extraordinary stage sets.
Gone too were the outré accessories. Just a cameo at the throat was the main embellishment, although there was the usual complement of frills, bows and feminine prettiness.
Was it passable as a show? More than that, it was pretty and witty, with soft shorts as an alternative to skirts and a couple of those transparent evening gowns that are a house signature.
So Dior has not yet lost its soul. And it will find a new one — since the brand, which survived the death of its founder, Christian Dior in 1957 after only 10 years at the helm, is more powerful than one single designer.
Yet this sorrowful show marked the end of an era of flamboyant, tempestuous fashion going to the outside edge of decency and wearability — yet bringing an unparalleled creative energy to the once classic Paris house.
“It’s just so sad,” said the supermodel Natalia Vodianova. “But Dior has to survive without John.”
Outside the Rodin Museum, the crowd bursting over the sidewalk included one man who carried a banner declaring: “The King is gone."