Dior repairs damaged reputation at Paris Fashion Week

John Galliano's stand-in replacement Bill Gaytten redeemed himself with clean lines and crisp fabrics.

Models present creations by British-born designer Bill Gaytten for Christian Dior during the Spring/Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection show, on September 30, 2011 in Paris. AFP PHOTO/FRANCOIS GUILLOT
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It was a minty-fresh Dior collection that sashayed down the Musée Rodin's catwalk, surrounded by zippy LED screens and upbeat music; a collection to redeem Bill Gaytten, the man keeping things running until a new designer comes in to replace John Galliano, his disgraced predecessor. Gaytten's haute couture collection last season was derided for its cartoonish wackiness, and it is not easy to regain favour in the merciless world of fashion.

This outing, on Friday, did not quite inspire the thrills that Dior followers have come to expect, but the clean lines, crisp fabrics and house style, together with incredibly pretty (if slightly wintry) cloche hats by Stephen Jones, added up to a pleasing, classic and very saleable collection, tailor-made for the Dior regular. The Bar jacket that is a house stalwart - soft raglan shoulders and three-quarter sleeves, nipped-in waist, and curved peplum - was combined with springy silk gazar bell skirts, while black-and-white ensembles were interspersed with bolts of bright orange-red in leather and organza. For evening, the shapes were closer to Galliano's Dior, with filmy chiffons floating out from fitted, lacy bodices.

Considering the unprecedented Paris heat (nearly October and knocking 30°C, and far hotter in the shows), it has been instructive to consider the weightiness of a number of presentations so far. Among the sunny, light separates at Dior, there were woollen coats, and it seemed other designers were expecting a cool spring, with heavy jackets, dark colours and lots of buttery leather.

One, though, whose trademark style offers plenty of light layers to pile up or pull off, depending on the weather, is Anne-Valérie Hash. Her collection on Friday featured stronger tailoring and fewer frayed ruffles than her softer looks of late, but those asymmetrically twisted portions of trousers and tops remained, contrasted with straight lines and crisp panels. A refreshing, summery palette of cobalt and washed blue with glowing coral pink was sharpened with black-and-white jackets and chopine-like platforms, and there were plenty of pieces to love, in the sort of exquisite-to-the-touch fabrics and drapes you long to slink into in the hot weather.

At Carven, the young fashion favourite Guillaume Henry sent his models round the Jeu de Paume's labyrinthine catwalk wearing shoes with silvery bells. Neatly overlapping folds on jackets and tops offered a solemn start, but within minutes brightly coloured ikats, zigzags, multicoloured knits, Mexican boleros and leather-inset details with curved cutouts had made this a sweet, cheerful and youthful event. Mini skater skirts and bulbous shorts and frocks were carefree and innocent.

Rochas offered a much more knowing collection, its designer Marco Zanini heavily referencing the early 1960s with beehives, a B-movie soundtrack and fantastic cat's-eye sunglasses. The heavy duchesse satins in pastel shades, with cap sleeves, straight shapes and demure necklines, were a touch literal and laboured, but when more relaxed pieces came out - sequinned prom dresses, crisp white frocks with full skirts and pretty shell tops - his usual wit returned.

At Peter Copping's show for Nina Ricci, there were few surprises and lots of delight as his beautifully crafted, elaborate appliqués, laces, tulles and chiffons were pieced together into tight, ruffled pencil skirts and dresses, with delicate printed tea dresses and pristine white brocade skirts offering an immaculately decorous vision of summer. Eveningwear, as always, included stunning, delicate gowns, this time with fine gold leaves scattered around the shoulder and neckline.

Roland Mouret's retro seaside glamour employed his trademark origami folds and super-fitted wiggle dresses in cream, red and sugar-bag blue, with sparkling, strong-shouldered jackets tucked into tight skirts for evening.

Dries Van Noten's collections are reliably thoughtful and desirable, and for summer his beloved prints were more varied and clever than ever. In a narrative of the cityscape, he started with black-and-white botanical prints and etchings, to which was added steamy, tropical, flat colour, as if hand-tinted. By the end, he had worked up to digital prints based on photographs of modern neon signing in urban areas by James Reeves - dark fabrics scattered with points of light and, best of all, "Circus Circus" signs flashing across them. And with that little piece, Van Noten summed up Paris Fashion Week instantly.