The machinery of a house like Christian Dior is vast. It's the kind of monothilic machine where, if something gets jammed or a cog doesn't fit quite right, the engine itself will jam initially, judder against the offending part for a few brief moments, and then eventually grind it into submission. Nothing, but nothing will stop it working the way it must.
That's a hefty (and maybe clumsy) metaphor for the state of Dior at the moment, still without an official designer. Bill Gaytten stepped into John Galliano's vast, towering shoes (imagine those early-noughties Dior strap-platforms, then double their precarious height) and, as expected, took a serious tumble. He's bruised, but he's carrying on. For that alone he deserved a round of applause.
This Dior collection wasn't a stunner - in that it didn't knock you out or bowl you over. Then again, you'd have to Youtube Galliano's late nineties stuff to really be blown away. Gaytten instead gathered his ateliers around him and gave a performance that will stand up, rather than stand out, in the grand tradition of Christian Dior. This collection was a bit of a coaster, a floater. Gaytten picked up on the profoundly traditional silhouette of the ballerina, the tiny head, tinier waist, full hips and expansive skirt. That was a retro rehash of Dior's favourite silhouettes, the A-line and the omnipotent New Look. It's also one women are surprisingly willing to wear today, especially rendered in a cosmetic palette of powder pink, inky black, coral and a rainbow of tasteful nudes. No prizes for guessing exactly which Dior department most women will be buying those from.
Of course, that's what Dior is geared towards - the litany of fragrance, make-up and accessories licenses, the fuel to the luxury goods industry today. You could easily, immediately imagine the blown-up houndstooth checks splayed across a silk scarf or mottling a licensed hosiery line, the twist of a leather sweetheart neckline as detail on an entry-level leather wallet, the grey-blue-mauve banding of a pastel coat glimmering as an eyeshadow compact.
But let's not be churlish - you could also imagine red carpet starlets in the evening dresses, and maybe even some women, somewhere, wearing Dior's sleek take on the peplum jacket. This wasn't art, it was commerce. Although never forget, whether ready-to-wear or haute couture - that is, machine-made or not - there's an art to good commerce, too.