John Galliano is a master fantasist. Lest you forget that, he picked the coldest and wettest afternoon of Paris Fashion Week to transport us to a mid-century Polynesian pleasure-isle in his latest show for Christian Dior. The house, after all, was born in the fall-out from the Second World War, and Monsieur Dior himself stated that he wanted to create clothes to help women dream again.
Galliano was right on the money in that respect. Times are hard, still, and many are ready for a touch of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants escapism. Dior's proposal this time looked back to forties and fifties pin-ups, specifically Bettie Page, hence the thick waved hair and cartoon-strip make-up that could have been lifted off the nose of a fighter pilot. The clothes lived up to the themes too, merging touches of lingerie and ruffly silken nothings with tropical print and clashing colour. Intricate surface texture was key, whether in petal-strewn skirts worked like Hawaiian leis, shell and coral embroideries, or looped and braided rope details like precious bosun's knots. Add a sailor cap seductively slanted on every forehead, and Galliano's latest New Look - South Pacific in the Salon - is complete.
Those South Pacific references felt especially appropriate, as this show had the feeling of a well-polished and long-running Broadway musical. Galliano has been dress-rehearsing these looks for well over a decade at Dior and threw out those ruffle-edged chiffon slips and intricately knotted evening frocks in silver-screen saturated hues with the greatest of ease. Perhaps too much ease - it was a path terribly well-worn for him, and though the Copacabana clash of colour and print had a zesty energy to it, it didn't really bring anything new to the table. Daywear seemed an aside, as is so often the case: a few bits of Soldier/Sailor cross-dressing, sporty drawstring hems and some citrus-hued Lady Dior bags slung across the shoulder was Galliano's whistlestop trip to that port, before he docked for good in the cocktail hour. But sailor trews are never destined to see the red carpet, which for a house such as Dior is increasingly seen as a primary market. In that respect, there was plenty here to please Dior's roster of starlet fans, but nothing to rock the boat. One imagines those were precisely the captain's orders.