Rather than the riot of colour, crash of music and explosion of models careening down the hundred-or-so metre catwalk at today's Christian Dior show, there was an uneasy silence. This, of course, was the first show since creative director John Galliano was dismissed by the house on Tuesday following anti-semitic remarks captured on video. The uneasiness was anticipated. Then a besuited man - like a couture compere - walked onto the Michael Howells chandelier-strewn set: Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano. Toledano's first public statement on the situation opened the show - it was fitting, not least in that his speech was filled with reminders that the house of Dior is eternal. That didn't feel like PR jargon, but like an inalienable fact. Dior, and the show, must go on.
Then the lights went down, the Jeremy Healy soundtrack kicked in and the models began to make their exits. And it felt like business as usual at Dior, almost. The slick colour-drenched clothes with their wide highwayman hats linked perfectly with those we've seen on other catwalks - their influence was nineteenth-century dandies, said the programme notes, but there was a touch of seventies to swaggering capes and knot-knee knickerbockers that segues with the general feel of the moment. Models toted matching bags, reworkings of the iconic Lady Dior or a new squashy leather tote with chain handles. Some pieces of pastel-rinsed knitwear came out, some furs, a neat bit of belling around the waist, lots of thigh-high boots. Evening, of course, is where Dior's heart always lay. It's where Galliano's lies too - and the lingerie-look evening dresses, delicious in degrade shades of chiffon reminiscent of his January couture, were the collection's strongest statement. Well, besides the show - this time, a loaded statement in itself.
The difficult question about this show was exactly whose hand was behind the clothes. Galliano's dismissal, although close to show-time, meant that the former Dior creative director may or may not have been directly involved with the design of these looks, and certainly would not have seen them through to their final catwalk state. Some, however, bore the unmistakable touch of Galliano that has been so celebrated - the breathtaking lightness of tulle and lace scattered with embroidery in the macaroon-coloured numbers that closed the show, for example.
They were beautiful. As was much in this show - and as was the gesture of the Dior atelier staff emerging at the show's finale to acknowledge the audience's applause, the most graceful way to treat a situation unprecedented in fashion history. John Galliano constantly sought for an emotional reaction from an audience to his clothes. Even in his absence, the Dior show achieved that. Overwhelmingly, this show filled me with sadness - sadness at Galliano's conduct, sadness at being just one of the very many public witnesses to his self-destruction, sadness at the waste of his talent, sadness at the entire situation.