What psychological process did it take to lift John Galliano to the extraordinary place of brilliance he reachedor rather, rediscoveredin his Spring couture? Everything about the Dior collectioninspired, he said, "by Pinkerton's affair with Cio-Cio San, Madame Butterfly"reconfirmed his unique talent to evoke beauty, sensitivity, narrative, and emotion in a fashion show. Kimonos, obis, and geisha makeup were Dior-ified, transformed into delicate translations of New Look peplum suits and full-skirted dance dresses. Each look sprouted yet more miraculous planes of origami folding, their stiff geometries creating necklines like flowers or hovering birds. Every dress had an intense color and character of its own; a hot pink, an eau-de-nil with coral, cascading shades of burgundy and imperial purple. Some were painted, others sculpted from curviform furls of woven straw.
This was a return to form, and then some: a collection that represented a comprehensive ditching of the techno-brashness, crude drag-queen posturings, and overdone multireferencing that had come to obscure Galliano's talent in an increasingly bewildering way. Whatever caused this turnaroundthe bleak sense of withdrawal of his last ready-to-wear collection puts it in particularly sharp reliefthe recovery has been spectacular. Giant gray House of Dior chairs set on a series of podiums helped rekindle the magic of those delightful nineties shows in which Shalom Harlow and her friends used to method-model their way up and down Galliano's catwalks. And lo! There was Harlow herself, the bride, sprigs of diamonds atremble in her geisha hairdo.
For anyone who first glimpsed Galliano's raw, romantic genius 20 years ago, or witnessed the impact of his first, all-black Japanese collection done on a shoestring a decade ago, today's presentation recaptured everything that ever made him a force to be reckoned with. Was it anything new? No. But when Galliano does what he does this brilliantly, there's no one who can touch him.