The biannual John Galliano menswear spectacular began this season with a tip of Charlie Chaplin's bowler hat to his silent masterpiece, Modern Times. Dressed as Chaplin, model Scott Barnhill tumbled out of a huge clock backdrop, and Galliano's movie madness began to unspool. Why Charlie? The rationale was that the designer wanted to make a statement about new proportions in menswear, and the Little Tramp's shrunken jacket and baggy pants seemed like a good place to start. Hence, Galliano's dropped-crotch pants and jackets fitted to the body (exaggeratedly so for the show). A trench in a Lurex military twill might not have been specifically Chaplin-esque, but it captured his flagrant dandyism.
Chaplin was followed on the catwalk by Buster Keaton, porkpie hat, lugubrious expression, three-piece suit, and all (kudos to the performances—Galliano is as demanding a director as he is a designer). A group of retro-tailored pieces were really a way of introducing a Death in Venice subtext that allowed the designer to flood the catwalk with boys in his bathing suits and underwear, which must be a particularly lucrative license for him, given the amount of show time he always devotes to this passage.
The finale involved formalwear literally stripped—like its models—of everything that didn't directly enhance the voluminous trousers and evening jackets, reconceptualized with straps, zips, and a generally brazen attitude. Then an orgy of strobe lighting brought the whole shebang to an appropriately surreal close, with Chaplin, Keaton, and half-naked boys crowding the catwalk. The French made Galliano a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur for his services to fashion. Next time Hollywood hands out the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Galliano would surely be a wortHhy recipient for his services to spectacle.