If it's a blast of escapism we want, John Galliano is the man to turn to - he's been in the game of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fantasy for nearly thirty years. Hence, when we saw received his treasure map invitation and read the phrase 'Tribal Princesses' in the show notes, we realised he wasn't ready to hitch his bandwagon to next season's bold brave minimalism quite yet.
Glitter spewed, drumbeats started, and the girls emerged in the topsy-turvy reclamation of every itinerant people under the sun. Galliano was on the run - and if the Galliano Girl is doing gypsy, you can rest assured she'll be the gypsiest gypsy you ever did see. Accordingly, he piled on the decoration, pumped out the volume, and cranked up the regional references - one could make out Tibet, Mongolia, Peru, India and Japanese influences. And that was just in the opening skirt. Occasionally, and perhaps inevitably, it all hung a little heavy with effort - a crinoline belted at the knees over a tube skirt under a bolero, topped off with a towering headpiece, doesn't spell workaday.
However, when Galliano lightened up, it was ravishing as ever. His palette was burnt neutrals, subtly-striped worsted in muddy colours enriched with spicy shots of saffron, turmeric and cinnamon. These were mixed into simple, classic pieces of pinch-shouldered, double-breasted tailoring, a few cargo-pocketed jackets (without the leg-of-mutton astrakhan sleeves) and some ferocious furs. Lightness is Galliano's leitmotif, as witnessed by his bias-cut chiffon frocks. He's such a pro at these, it feels as if he exhaled them in his sleep, and they had all the dreamlike quality one has come to expect, wisps of nothing in gem-like shades, peppered with bows and sparkling with embroidery. There was also a lightness to some of those massive shapes, when even brocade-patched sleeves the side of suburban sofas were filled with air and those massive skirts swung easily like bells. But, again, this perfection comes from practice - the crazy-lady crinolines and monolithic shapes are bizarre Galliano-isms tried and tested, and at this stage in his career (and success) an adept realisation of these 'classics' is par for the course.
Ironically, it was in that perfection that the problem lay. Despite the round-the-world magpie reference grabbing and world-weary traveller garb, this collection didn't take Galliano or his audience anyplace new.