Byline: Robin Givhan
At the Paris couture shows, Christian Dior brilliantly erased the anti-Semitic eruption of its mercurial creative director,
John Galliano. But his renegade talent won't disappear.
As the last model walked off the Christian Dior runway Friday afternoon and the lights dimmed in the stately tent erected in the courtyard of Paris's Musee Rodin, the audience of more than 1,500 fashion insiders and aficionados stood and cheered.
It had been less than 72 hours since John Galliano, the creative director of the venerable French brand, had plummeted from grace after allegedly spewing anti-Semitic insults at a couple sitting in a tattered Paris bar, as well as in a jittery amateur videotape sold to a British tabloid. Galliano, 50, was swiftly fired and is now scheduled to go on trial in the spring for racist slurs.
The mood among Dior's guests that sunny afternoon was sober, with few of the usual fashion peacocks--those flamboyantly dressed eccentrics who provide flashes of color amid the industry professionals in their ascetic navy and black. A 196-foot-long, elevated runway jutted from a dignified backdrop of a mirrored salon--its glass artfully fogged by age--with crystal chandeliers hanging on either side of a wide arch. Gone were the scrums of TV crews battering their way through the crowd, the A-list celebrities who serve as paparazzi bait, the thick cloud of buzz.
As the show began, the first figure on the runway was not some coltish model; rather, it was Sidney Toledano, Dior's CEO, dressed in a black suit and tie. He stood at the top of the runway and, in French, spoke of the company's shame and sorrow. With that single gesture, he put a human face on this rarefied brand, one that last year boasted [euro]826 million in revenue. He wrenched your heart. He went on to praise the seamstresses, the fitters, the artisans: "What you are going to see now is the result of the extraordinary, creative, and marvelous efforts of these loyal, hardworking people."
The collection was charming and coquettish with its silk bloomers, fur-trimmed skirts, ruffled dresses, and sheer lingerie-style gowns. It wasn't a breathtaking show, but it has been a long time since a Dior ready-to-wear collection made one gasp with pleasure.
What it did do, however, was remind everyone what …