Grazia dropped by the Dior studio last night for a handful of Haribos and a sneak preview of the collection with designer Bill Gaytten. A big bag of sweets sure helps to humanize a business where the samples are all a sylph-like size 4 and nothing costs less than dinner for 6 at The Fat Duck. But it turns out that it is a tradition, in the run-up to the show, chez Dior, for everyone who works there to contribute sweets from their neck of the woods to the pile. So models, PRs, hairdressers, assistants, seamstresses and interns all grazed on Swedish Fish, Life Savers, Haribo Sours and Hot Tamales. First to disappear are the wine gums. A model on her way to a fitting, desperately scanned the table for a black or a red one and said: 'British sweets are the best.'
Bill Gaytten followed John Galliano to Paris in 1994 and worked with him for Givenchy, at his eponymous line, and then at Dior - before Galliano was relieved of all his duties in February of this year. Speculation about who will take over as designer currently swirls around Raf Simons but in the past year has included everyone from Azzedine Alaia to Alexander Wang. Gaytten, a 51 year old Brit, remains the steadying hand on the tiller steering the famous French couture house which last year reported a rise in sales of 27 percent.
Gaytten’s collection for Spring / Summer 2012 has none of the excesses of the universally panned Pierrot collection which was his first solo outing last July. Shown ’At Home’ in the pale grey salons of Dior HQ, it is a lesson in the classics. Bar jackets, full skirted cocktail dresses with cinched waists and body skimming shifts.
‘It’s an x ray vision of Dior,’ Gaytten told me. ‘You can see the construction of all the dresses through layers of delicate fabric.’
To the casual observer there was nothing extraordinary about any of it: no wild excesses at all. But (and this is the beauty of couture) get closer and you realize that what you think is lace is actually organza painted by hand to look like lace; what you think is embossed leather is actually individual scales of crocodile embroidered onto silk. And the sweeping skirt of a ballgown has so many vertical and horizontal pleats that the pattern looks like the plan for a Norman Forster building than something that is likely to become some lucky girls wedding dress.
Designer’s come and go. The couture ateliers of houses like Dior are anchored so firmly, they can survive the tumult. And how is the sanguine Mr Gaytten surviving the storm? ‘I am super organized, fully programmed. I do what I am told.’