The invite was a metro ticket, instructing show goers to a seedy venue under the Pont Alexandre III bridge, strewn with the detritus of a riotous party. “A walk through the underbelly of Paris, offline,” said the show notes which also pointed to Brassaï’s 1920s portraits of the Paris night creatures who lingered in the darker corners of the City of Light.
A modern night creature, Lucky Love singing “Now I Don’t Need Your Love” was followed by a film, starring bare-chested male model Leon Dame wearing a tightly laced corset waspie, over high waisted trousers, his hips padded out to Kardashian-esque proportions (Kim and Kylie watched from the front row). He stepped from the screen into the venue preening and posing his way through the tightly packed spaces, leading a cast of demi-monde characters that evoked an era of bygone bohemia and decadence. Galliano’s girls wore extreme hourglass silhouettes with waists acutely cinched and hips padded, merkins (pubic wigs) clearly visible beneath sheer bias-cut gowns.
The collection was a year in the making, and many of the pieces were extraordinary. A series of trompe l’oeil gowns in watercolour chiffons, could have stepped out of an impressionist painting as they washed over the model’s bodies. One coat appeared to be made from corrugated cardboard (in fact layers of fine fabric) its a matching bag held together with parcel tape – an echo perhaps of the controversial “homeless” couture collection Galliano did for Dior in 2000. In many ways, this show it felt like the designer was coming back to himself – reclaiming himself.
Everything came together to make this a show for the ages. Jess Hallet’s diverse casting of models who performed their characters with total commitment – strutting, scuttling, preening, posing under the movement direction of Pat Boguslawski; the models’ doll like faces drawn by Pat McGrath with skin glazed to look like it had been wrapped in cellophane; hair teased into swooping candy floss belle epoch up-dos by Duffy.
By the time Gwendoline Christie closed the show, in cinched latex crinoline, many in the audience were visibly overwhelmed. Galliano had unleashed something – an energy so pure in its creative expression, so shocking (haute pubes!), that it took your breath away.
The older crowd recognised the distinct force and flavour of his story telling, but younger show-goers will have seen nothing quite like this level of commitment on a catwalk before. John was in full Galliano storytelling mode, giving his epic fashion fantasy an unfettered freedom to roam for the first time since his fall from Dior and second coming at Maison Margiela. It was an a thing of awe and beauty.
Photography courtesy of Maison Margiela.