With John Galliano breaking his silence this summer, his absence at the label he founded is more on people’s minds than ever. If the world seems to believe that John Galliano the designer has lost his brand value, hasn’t John Galliano the brand lost its brand value, too? After all, a name is a name. Bill Gaytten is a good designer, who knows the house he works for almost as well as the man whose name it carries, but the shows no longer have the magic and excitement to them as they did when Galliano was there. Gaytten’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection was good, but you couldn’t help but wonder if it would have been better under a different name. While it did reference some of the grandeur and romanticism of Galliano’s spirit and aesthetic – for instance in the bold structuring and sculpting of cocktail dresses or even separates, and the extravagance of the vibrant gowns that closed the show – it didn’t come close to the hyper-staged, overwhelmingly atmospheric sense of thrill that defined the label’s collections under Galliano.
Instead, it took the trendy route, drawing on lots of orange, translucency, flower appliqué, and embellishment. (One top towards the end even had translucent cut-outs with embellished flower appliqué on it – how’s that for ticking the trend boxes of the season?) On the whole it was a nice collection, which played with some interesting elements – the 3D print in particular – but the ever-present elephant in the room isn’t fair to Gaytten or his work. And while talking about Galliano’s absence at John Galliano might seem like an old horse to flog, as he prepares for his inevitable comeback the impending fate of his old label can’t be swept under the rug.