Dior's first show without John Galliano ends on a bum note

All mention of John Galliano hurriedly scrubbed from Dior's Paris show – but designer's shadow looms large over collection

The symbolic head may be gone, but the heart of Dior remains. This was the heavily orchestrated message that France's premier luxury label has sought to push at its catwalk show after the worst week for a fashion house in living memory.

With all official mentions of disgraced former creative director John Galliano hurriedly erased, the show at the Musée Rodin instead began in unprecedented fashion with Sidney Toledano, Dior's president and chief executive, taking to the catwalk in an effort to close the damaging Galliano chapter.

"It has been deeply painful to see the name of Dior associated with disgraceful statements attributed to its designer, no matter how brilliant he may be," Toledano began, before again calling the dismissed designer's drunken opinions intolerable.

At the end of the show, with no Galliano around to take one of his infamous extended two-minute bows dressed up in a themed costume, a large group of staff from the Dior atelier wearing white work overalls took a collective bow, as the audience rose to its feet to applaud them.

Attendance was high – it seemed that the scandalous circumstances of the collection only heightened its pull – but celebrities were thin on the ground, with the models Natalia Vodianova and Leigh Lezark among the few in attendance.

Dior routinely boasts the starriest of front rows, but this was not judged a moment to focus on celebrity. It was soon after the actor Natalie Portman, the face of Miss Dior Chérie perfume, denounced Galliano in the week that he was fired.

Outside the show, the camera crews seemed to outnumber the guests, but there were no anti-Dior protests, just tourists thwarted in their attempts to see the famous sculptures inside the museum and bad-tempered motorists irritated at the traffic and fur-clad commotion outside.

Security was tight. Guests had to show their invitations to three sets of security, but once inside the cobbled courtyard there was a calm atmosphere, with a Dior grey carpet leading up to the white tent in the gardens where the show took place.

"It was a masterclass in brand management," said Melanie Rickey, editor-at-large of Grazia magazine after the show. "It was as schmaltzy as a Hollywood movie, but it was what they had to do. It was the right statement to focus on the history of the brand and to close the Galliano era."

Toledano's speech stressed the values of the Dior brand, noting how it contributed to French culture around the world. Not once did he utter the name Galliano.

Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, welcomed Toledano's speech. "It was the right thing to do, somebody had to take ownership of the show."

On the catwalk, it was almost business as usual. It is not known exactly how much of the collection was the work of Galliano himself, but the large design team co-ordinated by Bill Gaytten, who has worked with the designer since the 1980s, will have put the finishing touches to it.

There were a few ill-judged decisions. The opening look, which featured a long, flowing, hooded cape and knickerbockers, had something of the swashbuckling highwayman about it, an aesthetic that Galliano often referenced. From the end of the extraordinarily long catwalk, the look appeared remarkably like Galliano himself.

Similarly, the last outfit – a long white boudoir-style gown – was completely sheer, which meant that the final view the audience had of the Dior Galliano era was that of a model's naked bottom.

Among the audience there was a sense that although Dior was right to sever ties, it might not be the end for Galliano's career – it is believed that the designer is already in rehab.

The designer's own-label catwalk show, which was scheduled for tonight and was backed by Dior, has been cancelled. Buyers and editors will be invited to view the clothes in a simpler scaled-back presentation.

Shulman said the scandal had highlighted a problem within the industry. "We help these designers build an ivory tower and then we watch them throw themselves off it."

Galliano will stand trial for the alleged antisemitic remarks. The Paris prosecutor's office said the trial could take place between April and June. If convicted, the designer could face up to six months in prison and up to €22,500 (£19,350) in fines.

The designer has apologised for his drunken outburst, saying that "antisemitism and racism have no part in our society", but has hit back with legal action for defamation.

In a statement, he said he was "subject to an unprovoked assault when an individual tried to hit me with a chair having taken violent exception to my look." He made no mention of the video – which sees him saying he loves Hitler – but did take responsibility for the circumstances that allowed him to be "seen to be behaving in the worst possible light.

The search is already on for a replacement to head Dior. Riccardo Tisci, who is creative director at Givenchy, the second-largest division of LVMH after Dior, remains frontrunner. But after a well-received collection by Peter Copping at Nina Ricci on Thursday night, rumours began circulating that he was a contender.

It is unlikely a successor will be named soon for legal reasons. Under French employment laws if a firing involves a personal matter, it can be a long process.


Imogen Fox

The GuardianTramp

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