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PARIS (Reuters) - Christian Dior shrugged off talk about who might succeed John Galliano as the fallen star designer's stand-in enjoyed a well-received Spring/Summer Haute Couture show on Monday and seen roaring sales in spite of the global economic malaise.
It was nearly a year ago that Galliano was toppled from his seat at the top of Dior's creative operations, setting off an industry-wide search for a replacement that has produced many promising names but no heir to the crown.
The latest to set fashionistas abuzz was Belgian designer Raf Simons who, according to Women's Wear Daily, had begun talks to become Dior's new creative director after Marc Jacobs ruled himself out of the running in December.
Chief Executive Sydney Toledano refused to be drawn on the search when reporters cornered him after Dior's Haute Couture show, preferring to highlight the brand's healthy Christmas sales as proof it was holding up well despite the uncertainty over succession.
"Things are going well, we are building, the house is once again finding its comfort zone," he said. "Christmas sales went very well, better than the previous year."
His remark hinted that business had held up strongly through the final quarter of 2011, after Dior posted sales of 705 million euros ($919.81 million) in the first three quarter of the year, up 21 percent over the same period in 2010.
Around the catwalk at Dior's office in Paris, the mood was equally upbeat.
The fashion elite, squeezed into narrow rows of chairs on the building's third floor, applauded loudly after a display of 40 designs largely inspired by the tone and light variations of black-and-white photography.
The chatter among fashionistas was more conciliatory toward designer Bill Gaytten, who has led Dior's creative operations since Galliano's ouster last March and weathered criticism that his shows were too formulaic.
In his second try for Dior Haute Couture, Gaytten toyed more liberally with the brand's archives, rolling out a series of bouffant silk skirts which he paired with short, cinched jackets made from embroidered silk or black crocodile.
Fine layers of translucent silk, richly piled to create a cloud-like impression, bounced loosely as the models toured the catwalk, while two evening dresses festooned with huge bows drew furious scribbling from the fashionistas in the crowd.
Also remarkable were a succession of vast ball gowns, in bright red and black.
"This is really an X-ray, which lets you see what is under the clothing," Gaytten told journalists after the show. "There is really a lot of construction, but very light."
($1 = 0.7665 euros)
Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur and Mathilde Gardin, editing by Paul Casciato