Haute couture kicked off this week in Paris with one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the season: Christian Dior, sans disgraced creative director John Galliano. Galliano's studio assistant Bill Gaytten, who was recently named creative director of the Galliano label, took the bow following the show, but he received little praise for his efforts. The reviews from all the big papers are in and they're not good.
Here's a roundup: Cathy Horyn, New York Times
So I was a little surprised that the house gave so much play to Bill Gaytten, a studio assistant, who came to Dior in 1999 with Mr. Galliano...I like Mr. Gaytten. He’s a sweetheart, but he is not a designer. [Gaytten later told Horyn that he wants the job at Dior.]
The collection presented today, with modern architectural shapes as the reference (at least that explains the dumb cubes and balls embedded in the models’ hair), was a hodgepodge. I had the feeling that Mr. Gaytten, without providing much guidance, let the studio hands play with free-form shapes...That immaculate Dior polish was not evident. Some long flowing dresses in hand-painted silk looked contemporary enough, but for the most part the clothes looked like over-bright costumes.
If Dior is an historic house, a piece of French history (and I think it is), then Dior needs to find a designer who can lay down an aesthetic vision for the next decade or so. And then they need to let him or her do the job with full support.
Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune
Regardless of charges that he was sozzled with drink, off-his-head on pills or wildly ranting, John Galliano brought to the house a finesse and exquisite lightness that, with his departure, has blown away like confetti in the wind.
Fantasy is a delicate and personal vision. The grave mistake of Bill Gaytten, 51, who led the team to create this collection, was not to rely on his forte during 23 years with Mr. Galliano as an exceptionally skilled tailor and pattern cutter.
[T]he showmanship seemed crude as dresses that looked as though they were inspired by a Brazilian rainforest (or perhaps by Prada’s tropical prints) were unfurled like a butterfly wing on the runway in a parody of a show circa 1975.
Christian Dior: It falls well beneath the life’s-great-mysteries level. But anyone who has wondered about how a couture house might fare, creatively speaking, without a couturier (and lately that’s much of the fashion world) got an answer on Monday afternoon at Christian Dior: not well.
This was not about an in-house designer or designing partners attempting can-do reinvention. Rather, it telegraphed interim status, and in haute couture, interim doesn’t work.
There were Galliano Dior shapes, Galliano Dior winks, even Galliano Dior audacity. What there was not: the Galliano Dior mastery that transported so much of his work, including some of his safest collections, to a land of rare beauty.
Tim Blanks, Style.com
The opening outfit—a crazy-paving jacket with a ruffled collar and a full pleated skirt—kind of caught the postmodern madness of Memphis. And the subsequent parade of folded, tiered, unfinished taffeta, gazar, and organza had a similar assault-on-couture-orthodoxy vibe. There was a Bar jacket or two in the mix, acknowledging Dior's legacy, but the overriding sense was that a demon, long-contained, had been released, so that the Dior woman had suddenly been possessed by a disco dolly who, to the strains of Grace Jones, would blow out her hair and rampage to the nearest dance floor in a molto-bat-winged hostess gown that perfectly captured the campiness of cult-fave TV play Abigail's Party.
Jenny Barchfield, AP
When your collection notes read like an abbreviated history of the art, architecture and fashion design of the 20th century, you know you've got a problem. Such was the case at Dior's first show in 15 years without its disgraced former creative director John Galliano...It was as if Bill Gaytten — who took a bow at Monday's show, though Dior executives were quick to stress he has not officially taken over the reins at the house — were trying to prove his cultural erudition by shoving all those disparate influences into a single show.
In the days following Galliano's firing — which came right before the house's ready-to-wear show after a video showing the designer praising Adolf Hitler went viral on the internet — Dior executives handled the sticky situation with aplomb. Four months on, the same cannot be said.