Inspiration is a funny old thing. It can come from the most unlikely of places. Take Julien Macdonald. Way back when, Jules was a shy little boy from Merthyr Tydfil with a knitting machine, a dream and a few miles of viscose yarn. He was inspired by imaginary glimpses of mermaids in the blue grotto of Capri. He was inspired by Dalston ragga girls, by the notion of knitting Naomi Campbell a frock out of chandelier-crystal. Even more recently, his inspiration came from the rich bitches that actually wear his clothes, from the glitzed-up, glossed-out glamour of (Jackie) Collins novels and (Joan) Collins costumes. There was an integrity to that. Macdonald genuinely thought it was how women should look. It had a point of view. It had a valid reason to exist.
What is Julien Macdonald inspired by for Spring/Summer 2012? Balenciaga, and lots of it. There, I've said it. But one could think of nothing else when such literal, clod-hopping and occasionally jaw-dropping rehashes of Nicolas Ghesquiere's greatest hits thumped their way down the hot, hot catwalk of Macdonald's stuffy, salon-style presentation. Of course, it was Balenciaga stripped of all integrity and insight, Balenciaga removed entirely from its context and reworked. Credit where credit is due - or otherwise - Macdonald's reworking was embarrassingly minimal at best.
The glances into those Balenciaga archives were too frequent to annotate: this would become a litany rather than a review - but they ran a strange gauntlet through bugle-beaded excess, drippy satin, oversized shirting and chopped-up tailoring. There was a vague feel of safari to proceedings, the first few models wearing sunglasses as big as Toyota windshields and French Foreign Legion caps. A bit of tan leather hinted at the veldt, and there was a guttural, animal howl to open proceedings - I wasn't entirely sure if that came from the soundtrack or the audience, to be honest. Maybe Macdonald's female Legionnaires got waylaid on the way back to camp, hence the fact they turned up towards the end in a hodgepodge bit of Chinoiserie. The blue-and-white Ming Dynasty print was slapped along a few straight coats, splashed over some clumsy drapery, and dribbled across the front of sheer-panelled show-stopper Shirley Bassey frocks. They looked like the only thing Macdonald hadn't cribbed from another label's collection. More's the pity.