When news came out about Julien Macdonald’s participation in the latest round of Strictly Come Dancing, my immediate reaction was: about time.
There’s always been something about Jazzy Jules that screamed Strictly. His range at Debenhams is called “Star”, for Pete’s sake. He once made a dress that cost £1.3m, encrusted with 350 diamonds. The same season, he put Anna from Big Brother (the skateboarding nun, remember?) on his catwalk. Macdonald, like McDonald’s, is all about mass-market consumption. With sparkles. Lots of sparkles.
It hasn’t always been that way. Macdonald was a knitting wizard, plucked from the Royal College of Art by Karl Lagerfeld, championed by the late Isabella Blow. He wasn’t just credible – he was the dernier cri. He was actually cool. Who remembers that?
One also forgets that Macdonald headed the esteemed French house of Givenchy for three years. Maybe that is a moment best forgotten – Macdonald once spray-painted his logo across a shoulder-padded jacket, worn with cut-out trousers more skin that strap. Givenchy’s muse was Audrey Hepburn; Jules once strutted down his catwalk arm in arm with Paris Hilton. There’s a graphic illustration of the profound disconnect between this house’s heritage and the hired hand.
It’s also difficult to imagine the patrician Comte Hubert de Givenchy taking a turn around the Strictly dance floor. Which isn’t derogatory to Strictly – I’m a fashion writer, of course I adore a show focused on razzle-dazzle, ostrich feathers and a healthy, hefty dose of camp.
Truth be told, that’s what Julien Macdonald does best too: I remember his spring 2010 show, set in a recreation of a chateau’s jardin, fountains a-tinkling, that ended up looking more like a B&Q garden centre, with Jacquetta Wheeler dressed in a patent trench coat the same cognac shade as her skin. Camp as a Joan Collins cameo in Hi-de-Hi!
Fashion is an all-or-nothing business. You either give it your all, or you shouldn’t bother. Strictly demands the same of its contestants. Despite the glitter and glitz that marks Macdonald’s fashions, I’m not sure he and Strictly should be tangoing together.