"I'm electrified," John Galliano said after his menswear show, and he did indeed look zapped with energy. No wondera few days before, he'd presented a Madame Butterflyinfluenced couture collection for Christian Dior that had been acclaimed as one of his best, and here he was offering up an entirely different but equally stunning take on Japanese culture. In a season that has already gazed into the future and found it wanting, Galliano took the ultimate dystopian heroMel Gibson's Road Warriorand gave him a samurai spin.
The result was so spectacular as to defy any kind of critical evaluation of its individual components. Yes, there were extraordinary fabric treatments, such as the hand-painting on otherwise relatively restrained tailored items, or the brocading on the sleeves of a suede sweatshirt, or the ruching and distressing of everything else. And yes, there was a play with proportion, which dictated huge over fitted, or short over long. But confronted by fashion tribalism this savage, the only sensible option was to suspend all critical faculties and savor the ride.
Fans of metal apocalyptists Slipknot would effortlessly relate to the masking, the distortion, the primal throb of Galliano's collection. For the rest of us, there was an eye-popping trawl through the wreckage of Western civilization. Cormac McCarthy might clap at the parade of cannibal boys in crowns strung together from bits and pieces of trash, or the mannequins transmogrified by exploding skeins of wool and streams of oil. Galliano said he'd been inspired by a cache of Irving Penn photographs of Peruvian tribespeople he discovered in Buenos Aires. The fact that he attached the inspiration specifically to a passage of his otherwise-prosaic underwear shows that there can be a business method behind the showman's madness.