Dior imagines a world of peace, chiffon and colour

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The Independent Online

"Dior not War" read the closing outfit as the first of France's major status labels unveiled its collection for spring/summer 2005 in Paris yesterday. Suffice it to say that campaigns for world peace have rarely been quite so highly coloured or indeed camp, and this despite the requisite John Lennon/ "Imagine" soundtrack. Jackets may have come in army green but they were cut skin-tight, and curvy, fluttering chiffon dresses were printed in camouflage colours but upon closer inspection were scattered with art deco blooms. Hats with wide floppy brims and appliquéd with brighter flowers might have been a reference to anti-Vietnam, hippy culture, but Barbara Hulanicki's Biba in its heyday was also firmly on the agenda. Models' huge sequinned doe eyes, frizzed hair and skinny knitted or silk dresses in rainbow hues all paid homage.

"Dior not War" read the closing outfit as the first of France's major status labels unveiled its collection for spring/summer 2005 in Paris yesterday. Suffice it to say that campaigns for world peace have rarely been quite so highly coloured or indeed camp, and this despite the requisite John Lennon/ "Imagine" soundtrack. Jackets may have come in army green but they were cut skin-tight, and curvy, fluttering chiffon dresses were printed in camouflage colours but upon closer inspection were scattered with art deco blooms. Hats with wide floppy brims and appliquéd with brighter flowers might have been a reference to anti-Vietnam, hippy culture, but Barbara Hulanicki's Biba in its heyday was also firmly on the agenda. Models' huge sequinned doe eyes, frizzed hair and skinny knitted or silk dresses in rainbow hues all paid homage.

Of course, the designer John Galliano - the creative force behind womenswear at Christian Dior for the past eight years - was unlikely ever to allow any suggestion of a politically correct overview to run deep: "Come on Barbie, let's go party" roared the soundtrack as battered denim micro-minis finished with cartoonish knitted flowers, sequinned afghan waistcoats, and sporty slip dresses in shocking pink made their way down the runway. This was no show for the shy.

If today's Dior is not to everyone's taste - it is a far from subtle aesthetic - one can only admire Galliano's audacity, which remains unprecedented. There is no reason for him to change. While the rest of the luxury goods market is only now recovering from the economic downturn brought about by 11 September, Dior's sales figures have been more than healthy throughout, and this blithely commercial collection is testimony to the far-reaching brand it has become. Strong-shouldered, narrow waisted jackets - in tufted ivory wool or red leather, say - would suit Dior's core, resolutely bourgeois customer down to the ground. T-shirts and bikinis in pop art colours and kitsch accessories - a bowling bag in sky blue printed with Christian Dior in primrose; charm bracelets and belts dripping with enamelled fruits, towering cork wedges and stripy socks with every outfit - were aimed squarely at a less monied customer and will no doubt sell in volume.

The message at Junya Watanabe's show, which took place earlier in the day, was discreet by comparison. This was an exercise in beauty of an entirely modest nature and one that was all the more lovely for it.

Almost entirely in black - with the odd foray into ivory - fabrics were understated - muslins, cottons and battered lace - edges were frayed and shoes were resolutely flat. The most flamboyant gestures were head-pieces made out of piled up aged straw hats and neckpieces made up of multiple recycled zips.

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