The issue with Bill Gaytten's collections for the John Galliano label isn't that they don't reflect the Galliano aesthetic. On the contrary, it feels most of the time as if Gaytten is trying to guess what John would have done next rather than forging his own path as a designer. Which, of course, he is not. And that is the crux of the problem with Gaytten's Galliano: he is a talented member of the team, but should not be leading it. However adept, you wouldn't let a cello player conduct the symphony, nevermind compose it. But that's exactly what is happening at both Dior and Galliano. In layman's terms, a designer with no formal training or experience as head designer of a fashion house is heading two of fashion's biggest labels. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Disaster is perhaps a harsh description for the Autumn/Winter 2012 Galliano collection. Disaster implies something altogether more emphatic, more forceful than this lacklustre display. This was simply tired, and stale. There was a feeling of second-hand ideas dredged-up, recycled and regurgitated alongside costumey tricks to give a veneer of novelty to proceedings. Thigh-high stockings with ribbon garters garlanded around the top? Patent platform Ghillies, ruffled caplets and giant feather-bedecked hats? All those knick-knacks couldn't disguise the tired shapes of been-there seen-that daywear, accordian-pleated skirts flowing in tweeds and mohairs. They probably seemed good as an idea, but their cut was too pedestrian to elevate them above the mumsy, mimsy middle-of-the-road garments cluttering provincial boutiques.
Gaytten's stab at eveningwear was chiffon, bias-cut - of course - and billowingly 'romantic'. A couple of ruffled, lighter-than-air numbers in sumptuous sherbet shades pebble-dashed with sparkles captured a breath of the old magic. But as with the rest of this collection, they didn't say anything, didn't show anything new or different. A charge that could also be levelled at Monsieur Galliano himself, who admittedly stuck fast to his formula of va-va-voom evening-wear, sumptuous cocktail dressing and very little before or after. But there was always a panache, a joie de vivre to his offerings, something lamentably absent here. It felt like an approximation of Galliano rather than the real thing, the label's signatures diluted - or copied. Occasionally, the clumsy volumes and inept fabric manipulation smacked of a BA graduate trying to 'do' a Galliano and falling far, far short.
This was a sad affair of a fashion show, crammed into the obnoxiously antiseptic but geographically convenient Jardin des Tuileries tents rather than Galliano's traditional venues, far-flung and evocative. It was convenient, rather than creative. That's a handy alliterative catchphrase for this entire collection - but how much longer can the Galliano label exist without any dream, or true vision, behind it?