When it comes to unearthing an evocative muse, John Galliano is famously and extravagantly skilled. For Spring, it was the fictitious-sounding but real Maria Lani. Passing herself off as an actress, she conned the crème de la crème of the twenties Paris art scene (Matisse, Léger, di Chirico, Chagall, etc.) into painting her portrait and then absconded with some 50 works.
And so the stage was set. That's an appropriate metaphor, considering the venue (the grand Opéra Comique), but it also speaks to the current iteration of a Galliano runway show, which is so much about theatrical elements cushioning the actual fashion. That can prompt critics to question the validity of the latter, but these looks, each meant to be a portrait of Lani with many variations on hair and makeup, had an undeniable beauty that went to the heart of what Galliano does best.
There was the daywear of trenchcoats in lace-edged leather and sheer organza; and then for evening, gorgeous white Poiret-esque gowns with silver beading, and Empire columns with constructed bustiers and a cascade of embroidered petals or feather-trimmed silk. Another standout: the black trench on Yasmin LeBon, with a hem of floral embroidery and flat tiers of ruffles.
Like many others this week, Galliano used catwalk vets like LeBon, Marie-Sophie, and Angela Lindvall. Seeing them vamp on the gold mirrored runway, you could blur your eyes and pretend it was 1998. Even if it didn't hare off into unexplored territory, today's exuberant and inspiring presentation, which climaxed with a shower of gold confetti, managed to delight a weary fashion crowd. And that's saying something.