Is it possible for a dress that costs tens of thousands of pounds to ooze attitude? Can a woman wearing what looks like a family of dead foxes on her head ever be cool? With John Galliano master-minding the proceedings, the answer, quite preposterously, is yes.
The designer's autumn/ winter 2002 haute couture collection for Christian Dior, shown in Paris yesterday, was a fine stroke of iconoclastic genius. Picture a stadium-sized Gospel choir belting out Madonna's "Like A Prayer" flanking a catwalk lit by a dazzling crucifix. Next, people that catwalk with the world's loveliest women, in the most ornate feather and fur head-dresses, wearing clothes that looked as if they must have started life as the ultimate little girl's fantasy. Finally, smash it all into beautiful pieces, give it a street-wise edge, and voila! Haute couture for the new millennium?
Carrying forward the play between the light and the heavy, the romantic and the savage, the sinuous and the overblown that have become his signatures, Galliano mixed delicately worked dusty rose satin camisoles with studded black leather skirts; the lightest white cotton wedding dress was worn over bikers' leather trousers. If some of the bulkier silhouettes confounded, the narrow ruched skirts, best with a rich velvet hem, and fragile chiffon and silk slip dresses were, quite simply, heaven. Anyone in search of high camp, meanwhile, was not disappointed when, in a Marilyn Monroe/Seven Year Itch moment, models' skirts were blown over their heads by great gusts of air from below. Clothes boldly printed with 50 PER CENT OFF were, equally, a witty twist in a proud-to-be-bourgeois world. Madame will only be paying £5,000 for her new Christian Dior haute couture skirt, then.
There are, of course, not many designers who could afford such a caper. It's no secret that the ready-to-wear industry is in the doldrums just now. Interestingly, LVMH-owned Dior is one of the few exceptions.
Galliano's winning formula lies in a unique vision that has the ability to travel the distance right the way across a brand from the most elaborate couture garment to a handbag or even a lipstick. The haute couture is always Galliano's greatest moment, however, and this time round was no different.
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