Fashion: What Lagerfeld knows and Galliano knows not

`Galliano the glorious?' `Galliano the genius?'

No. Let's try `John the deluded'. British hosannas for his Paris couture show beggar belief. But by all means find two cheers for Alexander McQueen. Then forget little England and do homage to Karl Lagerfeld, the old master who, writes Tamsin Blanchard, made a couture collection as a couture collection should be. Photographs by Andrew Thomas.

If a modern composer insisted upon harking back to the manuscripts of Beethoven or Mozart, the music fraternity would laugh them out of the concert hall. But when a modern fashion designer remakes the clothes of the Twenties masters of couture, Lanvin, Erte and Paul Poiret, he is given a standing ovation.

On Monday afternoon in the ornate salons of the grand Opera house, John Galliano gilded the works of the great designers of the pre-First World War period. The collection was "a poetic tribute to the Marquesa Casati ... an Italian lady from the beginning of this century".

According to the programme notes, the Marquesa "transformed her life into an oriental tale, in a Venetian palace surrounded by monkeys". She was a friend of Leon Bakst, the artist who designed costumes for the Ballets Russes. The entire collection was in homage to a woman whose life was one long orientalist indulgence, dancing tangos and collecting costumes.

Had this show been transported back in time 90 years, the Marquesa would no doubt have ordered every sumptuous piece, from the fabulous orange bead-encrusted cocoon opera coat to the Joan of Arc silver liquid chain- mail dress and the sheer tulle suit embroidered with dahlias. As it was, she had to make do with the efforts of Paul Poiret. If she had still been alive today, she would have said, "been there, seen that, worn it," and would be off shopping at Hussein Chalayan or Martin Margiela.

However, the great and the good of the fashion world paid homage to the court of Galliano as they waited for the show to commence, entertained by tango dancers who twisted each other around the opera house. If Galliano had been alive in the Twenties, he would undoubtedly have been the star designer of costumes for the Ballets Russes. But that time has past. These days the modern day equivalent of Diaghilev would be commissioning the avant-garde Japanese label Comme des Garcons to design their costumes.

No matter how hard he tries to recreate it, women today - even the ones with offshore bank accounts and private jets - do not live in period costume drama.

The news on Alexander McQueen is rather better. He has stopped wreaking havoc at Givenchy. His new collection went back to his roots of tailoring and innovative cutting. Even Hubert de Givenchy might have eaten his words if he had seen the collection, after describing McQueen's work for the house as "a disaster" last week. His opulent collection shared the week's Twenties orientalist theme, but with a sense of reality and modernity too.

Whatever you may think of these two English boys, their arrival in the rarefied world of haute couture has had the effect of putting a rocket under everybody else, none more so than Karl Lagerfeld, who has a wisdom and touch that they have yet to acquire.

Who would not want to spend their millions on the collection Lagerfeld presented yesterday morning in the mirrored showrooms of the Chanel headquarters at Rue Cambon? It was simply sublime.

Where Galliano is literal, Lagerfeld, with the assistance of Galliano's ex-muse and collaborator, Amanda Harlech, is subtle and delicate. Both touched on the Twenties tango theme, but Chanel's black net tiered tango dress with pink silk flowers hand-sewn on the skirts was light and elegant.

The weight of the fabrics - heavy satin folded easily into flippy skirts, boucle wool made into a closely tailored suit, or a beaded argyll pattern skirt - and the proportions of the clothes, give the collection a true couture feel.

That every piece of clothing was touched by human hands hands is evident, from the tiny cross-stitching sewn up the seams and along the cuffs and edges of a pistachio green wool suit, to the scalpel-fine pleats on a chiffon skirt.

Inside and out, these clothes are perfection, every attention paid to the tiniest detail in the best tradition of haute couture.

Couture is not all about fantasy and romance. A new name appeared on the schedule this season, that of the former Balenciaga designer, Josephus Thimister, who has managed to pass the strict criteria of the Chambre Syndicale, haute couture's governing body, to show his first couture collection. It was an attempt to bring an old world up to date with a series of minimal, simple evening dresses in luxurious fabrics. Although it was a brave effort, it was almost too pared down, and easy to be valid as clothes worthy of having made to fit every millimetre of your body.

On Sunday night, Valentino, the Roman couturier, showed technically perfect suits and evening dresses that are both modern and sellable. A bright scarlet pin-tucked wool suit, a plain silk crepe suit with tiny pintucked pleats around the edges of the jacket and cuffs, or a white silk, crystal- strewn cocktail dress all have a valid market place.

If the sole purpose of a couture show is to sell perfume and be a glorified advertisement then the entire concept of haute couture is indeed a wonderfully poetic and fantastic sham. However, while Chanel, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent are still servicing a real market in the highest level of luxury clothing, haute couture and more importantly, the craftspeople, seamstresses and tailors who create it all from beginning to end by hand, deserve to thrive.

News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal