Mar 4, 2012
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Dior's autumn ballet brings light step to Paris

Mar 4, 2012

PARIS - Iconic Dior with a modern twist: the French house sent out a polished, sweetly feminine collection in Paris on Friday that swept aside the hum of fashionista chatter about John Galliano's succession.

Headlining day four of the Paris runway shows for autumn-winter, the collection overseen by Galliano's former right-hand man Bill Gaytten comes a year after the designer was sacked in disgrace over a drunken, racist outburst.

Christian Dior - AW 2012/13 - Photo: Pixel Formula

Since his chaotic departure Dior has insisted time and time again it is in no rush to name a successor, sending out a string of confident catwalk looks that cannily rework classic Dior fashion codes -- and have kept sales booming.

Friday's show in Paris' Rodin Museum was no exception, as Gaytten showcased 1950s-inspired silhouettes in nipped-waist dresses with gently bouffant, or swishing pleated skirts, under little jackets cinched with black belts.

"We took an iconic Dior look, crossed with a slight ballerina theme, and made it more contemporary, taking away unnecessary detail to concentrate on fall and colour and texture," the British designer explained backstage.

Masculine tailoring -- wool jackets and sleeveless bodices, some pierced with twists of leather -- was matched with ballerina-light mid-calf skirts in aerial organza or silk, from taupe or aubergine to plum or rose blush.

Sheer silk was worked into the pleats of an olive-grey dress, or covered the collarbones or back of an evening gown, picking up on Dior's haute couture show in January, which played entirely on layers of transparency.

From blacks and navies -- encrusted with crystal embellishments for evening -- the palette swept up to the softest pink, via what Dior called "Rothko smudged colours", in the coloured bands of a long wool coat for example.

Friday's show capped a renewed burst of fashion world speculation putting a string of top designers in the wings at Dior.

Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano repeated afterwards, with a patient smile, that no announcement was on the cards.

"First we have to plough the furrow, sow the seeds," he said when asked about a possible timeline for an appointment -- though he did concede, jokingly, that "the oven is warm."

The ever-busy fashion rumour mill, now boosted by the power of Twitter, went into overdrive last week with the news that Raf Simons was leaving Jil Sander to make way for a return of the house's founder.

The discreet, avant-gardist Belgian had been tipped as a possible successor to the flamboyant Galliano.

Barely had that flurry of excitement simmered down, than it was succeeded by a fresh burst of Dior-related chatter.

Christopher Kane had to rule himself out in an interview with British Vogue, after online rumours linked the Scottish designer to the job.

The magazine later reported that a bouquet had arrived at Dior HQ addressed to Haider Ackermann -- the Columbian-born designer who was linked with the job following Galliano's departure -- another tidbit gleefully relayed on Twitter.

"The fashion world likes to build up the pressure -- it's all part of the game, the search for the next new thing," Toledano told AFP.

"Since we won't comment, people feel justified in launching rumours," he said. "But I don't mind it, it's not damaging."

The crown jewel of Bernard Arnault's luxury empire, Dior posted a turnover of 705 million euros ($890 million) for the first three quarters of 2011, up 21 percent on the period in 2010.

Proof, Toledano said, that the house is thriving with an offer pitched at "the highest level" of fashion, with Dior couture creating a thousand top-end craftsman jobs in 2011 alone.

by Emma Charlton

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