The house that John Galliano built is now that of Bill Gaytten.
Never heard of him? Neither had most of the fashion editors, journalists, stylists and buyers at Friday's spring-summer 2012 menswear display at John Galliano, the label that bears the name of the disgraced designer who was sacked from Christian Dior and his own signature label earlier this year after a video showing him praising Hitler went viral on the internet.
The house of Galliano, which is owned by Dior parent company LVMH, had not announced a replacement for the wildly inventive British designer, and so when Gaytten _ a fellow Briton who was long a close Galliano collaborator _ shyly took to the catwalk for a post-show bow, members of the audience shot one another puzzled glances and shrugged their shoulders in bewilderment.
Label officials said Gaytten had officially taken the mantle of creative director for the brand as he set foot on the runway Friday.
"Things change, things move on, that's life," Gaytten summed it up after the show, which capped day three of a Paris menswear week overshadowed by the ongoing Galliano saga.
The designer's trial Wednesday on anti-Semitism and racism charges coincided with the first day of the shows here. The tale that emerged from the court proceedings of a creative genius pushed to the brink by the ever-rising pressures of the fashion industry was worthy of Balzac, and the story of his alcohol-soaked, pill-popping fall from grace had many of the fashion insiders packed into the Paris courtroom on the brink of tears.
Still, there was more to Friday's displays than just Galliano.
Military drab bloomed with tropical flowers and sweatshirts scintilated with sequins at Givenchy, with a ravishing collection that was equal parts couture and gangsta.
Stefano Pilati, the master tailor from Yves Saint Laurent, delivered a mouthwatering selection of jackets for every mood and occasion (though, sadly, not for every budget.) Madcap Belgian Walter Van Beirendonck angled for an altogether bolder demographic with ball-shaped, tulle-covered forms that swallowed the models up to their knees, turning them into walking topiary.
Another Belgian, Kris Van Assche delivered a sober collection in a nearly monochrome palette of charcoal greys. For his signature line, Van Assche, who also designs menswear for Dior Homme, looked to the mod movement, sending out high-water, drop-crotched trousers with Harrington jackets.
At crosstown rival Balmain, Olivier Rousteing made his debut since replacing Christophe Decarnin as the label's supervising designer for the men's and women's lines in April. Roustaing was promoted from within weeks after Decarnin failed to show up for the March women's fashion show, sparking rumors he'd had a nervous breakdown. A spokesman for the company insisted he was just resting on doctor's orders.
With the spring-summer collection shown in a showroom presentation, Rousteing remained true to Decarnin's vision of the Balmain man as a luxury rocker. Hardcore biker jackets and trousers remained core piece, though Rousteign pumped up the color, dousing the pieces in a florescent rainbow. Knockout pieces included a sleek tuxedo jacket entirely in black crocodile.
Brazilian-born, Paris-based designer Gustavo Lins also sent out a florescent-saturated collection that paired lime green jackets with sumptuous trousers in charcoal knits. Held in a postage stamp-sized art gallery in central Paris, the earnest show was a welcome change from the over-produced blockbusters staged by the luxury giants, where everything goes off without a hitch.
Once the day of frantic racing from show to show was complete, the fashion circus descended on the Petit Palais, where French sportswear label Lacoste was feteing its collaboration with American interior design giant Jonathan Adler, who collaborated on a special edition of polo shirts embossed with oversized striped crocodiles.
Paris' five-day-long menswear extravaganza enters the final stretch on Saturday, with shows at Dior Homme, Kenzo and Maison Martin Margiela.
"It was a funny moment for me."
That's how Gaytten described taking to the catwalk for the bow that thrust him from the shadows into the limelight.
"It was the first time _ normally it was John _ so it was a bit scary," the label's new creative director told reporters in a backstage interview closely monitored by the label's press handlers, who banned any questions on the touchy subject of Galliano himself.
The rigorous weeding out of journalists' questions was part of the house's evident strategy to make the transition as smooth as possible. Friday's show had all the telltale marks of a classic Galliano display, from the way the seating was arranged down to the language of the collection notes, to the way the models clomped angrily down the runway.
Like shows under Galliano himself, the display was divided into four sections _ streetwear, business attire, intimates and eveningwear _ all linked together by an overarching narrative.
Swinging '60s London was the theme of Friday's collection, with models in the first section sporting military jackets with drop-crotched silk pants and leather caps. Though the clothes and the styling evoked Galliano, they felt like a meek and timid version of the designer _ pared down and de-clawed.
Despite the stomping models, the earsplitting soundtrack and the set made from wildly blinking lights, the show lacked the energy of a Galliano display of old. Somehow, though the ingredients were the same, something just didn't coalesce, and the whole thing fell a bit flat.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
Just how many variations are there on the jacket? YSL designer Stefano Pilati served up dozens of fetching, fashion-forward iterations on the menswear staple.
Pilati has garnered a mixed critical response in seasons past, but Friday's tour de force collection proved for once and for all that the Italian designer is among the most impeccable tailors in the business.
The selection of jackets was nothing short of mouthwatering: Single-button, two-button, double-breasted, cropped, safari or tuxedo, they sprouted pocket flaps, razor-sharp pleats, hidden paneling and even sexy lacing. It was a testament to Pilati's skills that despite all the embellishment, the jackets exuded an easy, classic elegance.
These were looks that had the show's VIP guests _ including Kanye West, Michael Stipe and Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade, who sported white leather YSL high-tops _ drooling.
The jackets, in khaki, bone white and a dusty blue, were paired with culottes which, cinched high at the waist and flared through the thigh, were a hair less convincing.
Equal parts gangbanger and flowery, sequin-covered grande dame, the new Givenchy man was as strangely ravishing as the tropical bird of paradise flowers that dressed up his military drab.
Beefy models sported slim, olive-colored suits printed with the eyepopping flowers and luxe sweatshirts completely covered in sequins. Baseball jackets were paired with pleated skirts that fluttered as the models walked, revealing glimpses of hidden panels of the flower printed silk in saturated jewel tones.
Sequin-emblazoned baseball caps and scythed-shaped metal earrings that seemed to pierce through the central cartilage of the models' ears topped off the looks.
The label's Italian-born designer, Riccardo Tisci, has spent time in Rio, and the city's blend of tropical opulence and urban grit seems to have rubbed off on him.
Friday's show was held, appropriately enough, in a glass-walled hall of the Pompidou Center modern art museum that had the look _ and, under a galaxy of blinding, blazing lights _ the feel of a hothouse.
Passers-by pressed against the windows to catch a glimpse of the show and snap photos of the exotic flora inside: the wildly outfitted journalists, editors and stylists, who responded by turning their own cameras on the observers.
WALTER VAN BEIRENDONCK
If you can imagine a barbershop quartet on psychedelic drugs, you have a pretty good idea of what the Belgian designer's collection was all about this season.
Clean-cut models, their hair styled in oversized bouffants secured with combs, wore slim, '50s-style pant suits in pastel brocards and over-the-elbow gloves in leather patchworked to resemble cartoon faces, complete with 3-D noses.
Cable-knit sweaters were shredded down the front into thin strips and paired with checkered, high-water trousers.
But the collection's highlight was undoubtedly the oversized forms made out of tufts of fluorescent tulle that fit over the models' heads and enveloped them to the mid-thigh, transforming them into walking topiary.
Blinded behind a green bubble-shaped puff, an oversized cylinder in bubblegum pink or a plump blue and white cloud, the models blundered their way down the zigzagging catwalk, trying not to careen into fashion world heavyweights on their front-row perches. The green ball-shaped walking shrub banged into a door frame several times before managing to exit.
"The whole thing made me smile, which is really rare," REM frontman and fashion show veteran Michael Stipe said in a post-show interview. Asked if he would dare sport any of the looks himself, Stipe responded, "I'm 51, so I have to be careful about what I put on. But maybe for the stage, I could absolutely imagine wearing something like that for a show."