Fashion: Dior remembered his mother. But what's Galliano's excuse?

Yesterday in Paris John Galliano showed his summer ready-to-wear for Dior. And very beautiful it was. But, asks Tamsin Blanchard, why this obsession with the past? Junya Watanabe, by contrast, has seen only the future. And it works. For the designer who is supposedly at fashion's cutting edge, John Galliano certainly does love to live in the past. Yesterday, on a wintry Nineties Paris day, his clothes were all from summers long, long ago. Ranging from beautiful to ravishing, his collection for Dior was, like his show in the summer, redolent of the Belle Epoque. But this time no corsets.

Fashion to John Galliano is all about dressing for lunching out, for spending an afternoon in town, for languishing in a villa at dusk, or having a brief flirtation in the rose garden before dining out under the stars. If only life were like that.

Christian Dior himself harked back to the days when his own mother lived her life in ballgowns and beads (a man should love his mother) but quite what Galliano's excuse is, half a century later, one cannot say. I appreciate that we are fin de siecle. But which siecle, pray?

Whatever. Galliano's lavish historical imagery is paying off. Women in Paris are wearing the candy-coloured tweed jackets he presented for this autumn's Dior customer and they are carrying the handbags, too.

But back in fantasy land: here comes Kate Moss in her lilac fringed dress that shimmies as she moves, Linda Evangelista in cream pinstripe wide- legged pants with a shirt jacket into a high waist; then there was the leggy Shirley Mallman with lacy stockings pulled over stiletto heels; tulle dresses lighter than cobwebs, layered over lace; one dress was perfectly plain and pared down in bias-cut cream satin, while another made of silver mesh positively blinded the viewer as the light caught it. Best of all were camisole dresses made of silver knotted lace and chantilly; the silhouette was lean, cut close to the body and flaring out at the hem in a fishtail.

As you might expect in the Galliano world, I found myself sitting next to a real-life countess. But even countesses can't quite cope with the Galliano timewarp. The Comtesse of Chandon Moet, who you might think was at ease with the champagne lifestyle, simply shrugged after the show and said, "it's very difficult to wear".

The first clothes I saw in Paris this week were reduced to the bare minimum of tulle, chiffon and embroidery. Colette Dinnigan who presented her show before Dior can probably guarantee weather warm enough for her gossamer fine layers - she's Australian. Meanwhile, at Dries Van Noten, ethnic layers that travelled for inspiration from Morocco to Tibet, Nigeria to China, are designed to be worn layered so perhaps it doesn't matter if the sun doesn't shine. The collection featured every kind of decoration imaginable from sequinned embroideries to block prints, photo-prints and shiny appliques.

Last night, in a rare show of solidarity, Commes des Garcons and Martin Margiela joined forces to present two shows in one. Both are on the same avant-garde wavelength. The Commes des Garcons protege, Junya Watanabe, showed his collection earlier in the day. It was almost exclusively white, with garments miraculously twisted, draped and pleated out of single pieces of fabric. Although the models' faces were wrapped in cobwebs, the clothes looked to the future. And isn't fashion about keeping one step ahead?

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