John Galliano put on the liveliest, most upbeat show of the season tonight at the Theatre de l'Empire on avenue Wagram. As a jazzed-up version of “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy” blasted and neon showgirl lights flashed, the models tripped haughtily down the runway in twisted, bustled, blown-up 40s suits, rainbow-bright crocodile platform shoes with diamond buckles, Joan Crawfordinspired evening dresses and giant glued-on triangular plastic eyebrows to match.
It was a collection that could only have come from the imagination of Galliano, a man who's channeled everything from Bollywood to kabuki and made all of it completely his own. This season he said he was going for a "granny from hell" look, focusing on real urban glamour and honest-to-goodness dressing up.
The show opened with a series of slim-skirted suits that were anything but classic. The palette of choice, inspired by the supersaturated tones of Crawford-era films, was totally Technicolor: apple green, peridot, cyclamen, lipstick red. Exaggerated hourglass shapes with huge bow bustles made waists look tiny, while shoulders were enormously puffed and asymmetrical, occasionally exploding into poufs of fruit-printed silk. All this was followed by pinup-girl lingeriemerry widows, garter belts, thigh-high silk stockings and sexy little tap pantsfar too chic to be relegated to the bedroom.
For day, Galliano showed pom-pom-trimmed powder-pink sweaters that fell almost to the knee and printed silk dresses accessorized with giant rhinestone pinsone, in an overblown poppy print, looked particularly fresh. Evening looks, meanwhile, included highly Oscar-worthy gowns with all manner of ruffles and bustles and bows. (Nicole Kidman would be well advised to choose the dramatically draped peony silk.)
The Fall 2003 collection will be the first to fill what Galliano calls his "dream boutique"his first flagship store in Paris, where he plans to host dinner parties in the shop windows. His excitement at the prospect was evident in the clothes, and the energy was contagious. As the audience filed out of the theater, even the most jaded members of the fashion flock were smiling.