High fashion lightens up with Galliano's frills and flappers

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The Independent Online

The world of elite fashion is well known for taking itself very seriously indeed, but, as the spring/summer 2008 collections drew to a close in Paris over the weekend, designers appeared to agree on one thing: that it was time to lighten up.

The fun and frolics at John Galliano's show late on Saturday were matched only by the exuberance of the clothes themselves. The collection Galliano unveiled for Dior last week was decidedly subdued. But this latest collection was full of absolute, unbridled joy.

The set – which was designed to look like a fairground – formed a happy backdrop to models dancing and cavorting in the sort of frothy chiffon dresses, in sugar pink and baby blue, that this designer is famous for. Galliano said that he had drawn inspiration for them from Grey Gardens, the cult 1976 documentary about Jacqueline Onassis's aunt and cousin, Edith Bouvier Beale, and "Little" Edie who lived in squalor along with 50 cats in a 28-room mansion in the East Hamptons.

And so out came the knitted jumpers worn as turbans, flapper dresses and 1950s-style bathing suits. Excessive frills and undulating ruffles added extra fizz to Galliano's stock-in-trade bias-cut gowns and tea-dresses which also made an appearance at Dior.

This show was a triumph, not only because it confirmed next season's big message of unadulterated femininity and unbridled romance, but also because Galliano is unapologetic in his celebration of dressing-up and in his single-minded vision. And that is what fashion needs.

Earlier in the day the grand French status label Hermès took a trip to India, courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier, the label's women'swear designer since 2003. The Indian subcontinent is widely being touted as the next destination for the luxury goods boom, so it was only fitting that, in this designer's hands, trench coats were glazed with a golden sheen, riding jodhpurs were crafted from white crocodile skin and the models' heads were wrapped in Hermès' signature silk scarves.

Despite Gaultier's dab hand as purveyor of understated luxe – with this in mind, among his latest offerings were a sandy suede tunic embroidered with metallic thread and sari-like draped gowns – there was a distinct absence of the mischievous sense of humour that has managed, so far, to subvert Hermès' house style and make it relevant to a modern consumer.