'The king is dead' at Dior fashion show

For the past week British designer John Galliano has rarely been out of the headlines following his alleged anti-semitic rant at a couple in a Parisian bar.

But Galliano's final couture show Friday for Maison Dior was notable for the complete absence of one thing -- any mention of his name.

Dior Couture's President Sidney Toledano did refer to Galliano during an emotional address to the assembled fashionistas before the show began. But even then he did not utter his name, distancing it from that of the fashion house.

"It has been deeply painful to see the Dior name associated with the disgraceful statements attributed to its designer, however brilliant he may be" was the closest Toledano came.

Toledano also reminded the audience that Christian Dior, founder of the fashion house, had seen his own sister sent to the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald during the Second World War.

Galliano had been completely forgotten by the end of his speech, which paid tribute to the company's seamstresses and craftsmen who he said are "the heart of the House of Dior, which beats unseen."

As the catwalk show got underway, the sidewalk show outside the Musee Rodin continued as onlookers mingled with paparazzi and the TV news crews barred from the event inside. There were mutterings about the low celebrity turnout.

Most heads turned for Chinese actress, Fan Bing Bing, fashion icon and editor of Japanese Vogue Anna Dello Russo and fashion photographer Mario Testino, who simply smiled and shrugged when asked whether Dior was right to press ahead with the show just days after firing its creative leader.

The celebrity snapper set a trend followed by almost every one of the 1,200 other guests, buttoning their lips when pressed for their views.

But one sole eccentrically-dressed demonstrator was unafraid to make his views known. He wandered through the crowds, occasionally plugging his iPod into a portable speaker dock and performing a bizarre dance. During his calmer moments he held aloft a painted flag bearing the slogan: "The King is Dead".

Even Galliano's supporters, it seemed, had stopped using his name.

Just then the iron gates of the Musee were flung open, disgorging the contents of the fashionable flotsam and jetsam, still digesting their final glimpse of Galliano in Dior's clothing.

It had apparently been a moving experience.

Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova fought back tears as she described the unexpected appearance of the seamstresses on the catwalk at the end of the show -- the unseen beating heart of Dior revealed at last with poignancy.

"I think that Maison Dior has to go ahead because it has a greater history than just today because today's news will be packaging for fish and chips tomorrow."

An inappropriate analogy, perhaps, for a nation which prides itself on its Gallic gastronomic heritage, but one which would be appreciated in Galliano's British homeland.

"It's very, very sad that John is not there because of what's going on in his personal life. I just hope he will get well soon" Vodianova concluded.

It was the first time I'd heard someone speak his name at the Dior event.

Meanwhile Galliano, who will now face charges in a French courtroom, has taken steps to reduce his own profile by scaling back his own label show -- so often a highlight of fashion weeks past - from a catwalk extravaganza to little more than an exhibition.

The king is less dead -- more keeping an extremely low profile.

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