For S/S 2010, his heroine was Norma Desmond - and accordingly, his models were dressed as a kooky, spooky washed-up Silent Screen diva.
'All right Mr De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up' blasted the soundtrack at John Galliano, as smoke-filled bubbles exploded from the ceiling of a dank warehouse and lasers shot down the catwalk like rose-hued Klieg lights. It was camp, it was cliché, but it was one of the few moments when goosebumps ran down one's spine this Paris season. John Galliano was indeed ready for his close-up. For S/S 2010, his heroine was Norma Desmond - and accordingly, his models were dressed as a kooky, spooky washed-up Silent Screen diva in his usual madcap magpie mix of eras, fabrics and finishes, make-up caked like Baby Jane Hudson as they primped and preened for the camera. But unlike Desmond's fantasy world, Galliano's creations were founded very much in the reality of the here-and-now. Example: in a season dominated by lingerie dressing, Galliano's was indisputably some of the best. He's been working bias cuts, point d'esprit veiling and a wicked way with a chantilly lace insert for almost twenty years, and these were some of his finest. Flirty slips of dresses were patchworked from printed silks, tulle and lace, sliced into panels of sheer and opaque in a melange of fabrics which never overwhelmed. His outerwear too was given the lingerie touch: pleated jackets like bed-coats, fashioned from foliate chiffon and nude trenches fettered and fretted like lace with cutwork, while lace-veiled satin shoes, trussed with ribbon and patched with leather, were as delicious, light and carefree as bon-bons. It took immeasurable skill for this mix to appear as effortless as it did, and for Galliano's signature raid on the dressing-up box not to resemble just that. But these garments had an eminent realism to them - strip away styling tricks like the diamanté kirby-grips crusting the front of coats, crazy-lady piles of jewels and Stephen Jones' admittedly-ravishing Miss Havisham-style veiled, feathered and ribboned millinery (but save the latter for a fabulous rainy day at Ascot) and everything would work on a contemporary starlet with an eye for the exotic. Daywear, naturally, was ignored - it's never a Galliano forté, to be honest, but no need as Norma Desmond doesn't really rise before the cocktail hour (and according to many a catwalk this season, neither do many other luxury goods consumers). And as for her very many film premieres... Galliano is undoubtedly the man to costume her. Cue a deluge of ravishing, billowing eveningwear - miles of cloisonné coloured plissé jersey, tonnes of jeweled embroidery, soufflé-light silk mouselline and georgette and acres and acres of leg. What felt great was to see how feather-light and effortless everything seemed - especially after a couple of seasons where you felt Galliano (and his models) were drowning under his own urge to decorate. When it comes to show-stopping after-dark dressing, for spring Galliano proved he's still big. It's just those dresses that have got smaller.