Book review: Galliano by Colin McDowell (Weidenfeld pounds 30)

With pictures by some of the world's best photographers - Paolo Roversi, Xavier Valhonrat, Lillian Bassman - Galliano by Colin McDowell (Weidenfeld pounds 30) might look like a giant picture book. But it would be a pity just to flick through it, because to treat this as a coffee table book is to do it a disservice.

There are sweet, evocative snippets of Galliano's early days, such as his Spanish mother teaching him to dance the flamenco on the kitchen table. But what will really suck you in, and what this book is mostly about, is how Galliano works. McDowell has obviously talked at length to Galliano's team and there are flashes of insight into why this designer is such a genius: the attention to detail (he will stay long after everyone has gone home and check every stitch himself), and the concepts each collection embodies. "The initial briefing," says milliner Stephen Jones, can stretch to four or five hours."

The book does have an identity problem. The prose is too heavyweight for the pictures; yet the pictures aren't quite glossy enough for a really sumptuous art book. It is fascinating and will leave you yearning to see one of Galliano's shows, and yet it is too big and cumbersome to rest comfortably on the knee. Worst of all, considering the plethora of reference material it houses, there is no index. This smacks of laziness and is very annoying indeed. Annalisa Barbieri

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