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Christian Dior Haute Couture A/W11

Bill Gayten pulled out a playful collection in Paris, using lots of colour on both 50s and 80s inspired frocks

Yesterday, Christian Dior showed its first couture show sans John. It would have been fair to expect the house to pull a new, hip designer out of a hat, in hope for a makeover, and to flush away the sour after taste left at Galliano’s recent trial and tribulations. Instead, like Christian Lacroix recently did, the house turned to the previous designer’s long-time assistant, Bill Gaytten. But when you are better known for your applications of someone’s taste than developing your own (although we’re sure there is a lot more Gaytten in previous collections than we’re aware off), what do you do? How do you honour the recent creative history, please the customers, and infuse a touch of your own?

While John had always been playful, his dresses were no joke: though humor-ridden, they were intense in couture and fabric treatment. This collection demonstrated a certain lightness, a freshness, like a 50s revival in the 80s: Christian Dior's New Look was respected, in clean high waist jackets and wide skirts. This was pumped up with organza shoulder pads and boleros, a mix of patterns and pastel, and hats by Stephen Jones. The collection evolved into pencil skirt, large flower appliqués, followed by floor-length, Oscar-worthy dresses, and finished with a series of large dresses brimming with fabric, mid-way between 19th century ball wear and Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs for Pedro Almodovar. Something old, something new – is Bill Gayten here to stay?