Beauty and cruelty merged in quite the most audacious way imaginable at John Galliano's autumn/winter 2003 collection for Christian Dior shown in Paris yesterday. Shiny blood red and vivid purple skin-tight rubber trousers were laced up the front in a brazenly unforgiving manner. T-shirts in the same material came right up over models' faces – they were the ultimate SM designer masks.
And as for the shoes ... suffice to say that any present in the audience with even the mildest liberal intentions would balk at towering platform-heeled sandals buckled and bound to the point where even true professionals could barely walk. But this was, in the end, precisely the point. This is fashion, after all: it's not meant to be politically correct and these were fashion victims in the true and most gorgeous sense of the words.
There were less obviously highly sexed garments. Galliano visited China last winter for inspiration. This was apparent in bright silks and bold floral prints, but fused always with an overriding American sportswear theme. And so hybrid kimono/bomber jackets came with double stripes and numbers on the back, a witty nod to Asia's new bourgeoisie. Carried over from the designer's extraordinary haute couture collection for Dior shown last January was an exaggeration of proportion and silhouette that fairly dwarfed the world's most tall and slender frames: an outsized white leather trench coat was one high point; a gold silk evening coat another.
The genius of Galliano is that however extreme his vision, and however "difficult" clothes may seem at first sight, he continues to produce the season's bestsellers.
It's all too easy in such a competitive climate to serve up clothes that are easy on the eye but ultimately bland. This was anything but.
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