With a giant question mark still hanging over the house of Dior, one must wonder if Bill Gaytten is back under consideration to retain permanent possession of the job he has performed gamely for nearly a year. As rumors ebb, flow and change — the signing of this or that designer is imminent; oh, wait, talks have broken down — Gaytten continues turning out the house’s collections, which have improved steadily since his first effort for fall couture 2011. Add in the house’s upward business momentum, and it’s possible Gaytten’s interim status could be under review. Either way, it’s time for Dior to make its call and leave fashion limbo behind.

For now, Gaytten is in a holding pattern that circles around the house codes. In the couture collection he presented on Monday, he heightened the point of legacy by showing in Dior’s Avenue Montaigne salons. He employed the ruse of transparency and positive-negative counterpoint to reveal the phenomenal hidden artistry of its ateliers — corsetry, crinolines, seaming, basting stitches, etc. “It’s such amazing work,” Gaytten said in a preview on Sunday. “No one sees it. We see it, but the clients should see it.”

 

On the downside, John Galliano, too, built some collections around the visible-construction motif. And 65 years into it, too-literal versions of the once-shocking New Look hardly live up to the meaning of their name. On the upside, apart from a clunker or two, virtually everything Gaytten sent out was quite pretty. And when he broke free of overt retro, ditching the stiff Bar peplums and tempering skirt volumes, the modernity quotient of the clothes shot way up, as in a beige silk jersey dress and a pair of sheer cocktail dresses that incorporated bodice interest into lean, light silhouettes. One wished he had felt comfortable taking more such liberties.

As it was, the collection gave scant indication of who Gaytten is as a designer. An expert dressmaker can render literal translations; it’s now time for someone, whether Gaytten, Raf Simons or fill-in-the-blank, to have the freedom and confidence to translate the legendary codes into a new language — his own.

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