The catwalk to Givenchy

FASHION: In which we take an English designer who has achieved something very un-British and a Siberian supermodel who has reached somewhere very un-Eskimo and follow their road to Paris Illustrations by Richard Gray
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Next month, John Galliano, graduate of the mean streets of south London, will be in Paris showing his pret-a-porter for next spring and summer, this time not just as an English star but as heir to a gilded throne. For in November he enters the house where the great Hubert de Givenchy reigned and sets about preparing for January's haute couture.

That an Englishman should be assuming the mantle of the master is cause for wonder as he is entering a French holy-of-holies. But it is well to remember, before undue deference takes hold, that it was an Englishman, Charles Frederick Worth, who founded couture in 1858. And, if design genius is the calling card, Galliano's elevation should have come as no surprise. Nobody doubts his blinding talent.

In these pages we show some of his landmark creations of the last seven years, a sort of designer's cursus honorum - Galliano's greatest triumphs in ready-to- wear. And we have done it in classic style via the pen of an illustrator whose approach holds true to the traditions of fashion drawing, an art largely overtaken by the fast shutter and the flash.

The model who sat for us is another newcomer to fashion's pinnacle and from even more improbable territory: Irina Pantaeva, late of Lake Baikal, Siberia, now of the Ford model agency, home (as Jay McInerney puts it) of the "blond-Nordic-goddess-next-door". Goddess she is perhaps; Nordic she is not. Hers is an Asian face, her beauty extraordinary in its perfection. She is about to model Levi jeans; at this spring's New York collection she appeared in more than 20 shows. See her in US Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. She is, as you might say, one hot Siberian.

After he assumes Givenchy's couture mantle, Galliano will continue to produce ready-to-wear collections under his own label. Meanwhile cast an admiring eye on John and Irina, conquerors with new worlds to win.

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