John Galliano was always mesmerized by the inner workings of haute couture. He devoted shows to it. Standing beside him at Christian Dior for 16 years, it was inevitable that Bill Gaytten would come to share the same preoccupation. Anyway, that's the way it played out in Gaytten's second couture collection for the house. He x-rayed the craftsmanship of the Dior ateliers, and the riveting result was a show that dared to inject an unfinished quality into the most polished fashion arena of them all.
Sheer layers exposed the underlying construction of garments. The black floral designs that were picked out on a flaring white skirt were like an initial guide for a master embroiderer who would fill in the colors later. On one dress, black crocodile scales were randomly picked out in patent. On another, ostrich had been dissected into paillettes of skin, like a body map. On yet another, sequins traced a grid, like a pattern-maker's directives. The mood carried all the way through to evening, where a one-shouldered black gown featured tone-on-tone embroidery and a random splatter of sequins suggesting a naïve effort to add glitz. The same effect was realized a little more fulsomely with a galleon of a dress in Dior gray, its panniers exaggerating the billows of tulle.
There is a school of thought which says that mystery preserves the magic, but Gaytten understands, as did Galliano, that if you reveal the machinery, you can enhance the mystery. That's because you're throwing a spotlight on the intangibles of creativity. It was probably a coincidence, but the choice of pop ingenue Lana Del Rey as the show's musical accompaniment was perfect. She's manufactured, but it detracts not a jot from her plangent allure. Something else to consider: In its charmingly unfinished tentativeness, this felt like the sort of collection a designer might offer if he was laying out a blueprint for the future—this is me, this is what I can do and how I can do it. Curiouser and curiouser, as the decision on the Dior succession continues to dangle like a hanging chad.