Depending on which side of the fence you sit, John Galliano is either a crazed egomaniac or a genius. Or, quite possibly, both. His collection for Christian Dior, the first of the great French status labels to show in Paris yesterday, was nothing if not testimony to both sides of a creative force which continues to baffle just as it inspires.
This time rockabilly girls wore huge lemon and lime Poiret coats with exaggerated fur collars and fondant-coloured brothel creepers with giant gold Christian Dior dice bouncing at the end of their laces. They wore Teddy boy suits in metallic leopard print with huge dyed fur turn-ups.
Safe in the knowledge that he is a brand, Galliano is far from shy when piling on armfuls of chunky silver identity bracelets, ropes of rocks the size of boiled sweets and, of course, the new Dior handbag. The lucrative accessories weighed down everything that moved.
But to dismiss Galliano as purveyor of flash trash would be to underestimate his power. The most remarkable thing about this collection was that amid all the deranged glitz there was a lightness of touch and sophistication where reference is concerned that few can rival. How delicately beautiful were flapper dresses in pales shades of sea blue and green? How lovely was a dusty pink shift embellished with silk roses? At the end of the show the great man came out to take his bows looking every bit the Fifties Teddy boy pin-up.
Of course, Vivienne Westwood, erstwhile queen of punk, was inspired by Teddy boys too, back in the Seventies. This designer, who showed earlier in the day, paid tribute to some of her most memorable designs. There were bondage trousers from her infamous Seditionaries collection, including the tartan suit worn by John Lydon at the height of the Sex Pistols' fame. There were the towering platforms which caused a young Naomi Campbell to fall over on the catwalk.
Westwood, who turns 63 in April, one week after the opening of her retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is still a major fashion force. Although she might not have the so-called "must-have" status of many of today's younger designers, she looms large over their work. From Galliano to Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe to Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga - all are indebted to this designer and the iconoclastic spirit she represents.
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