Fashion is theater for John Galliano, who is of the mind that clothes, hats and makeup, no matter how beautiful, look even better with a juicy story. It was a point well-made by his stunning spring collection, framed by the tale of Mari Lani, an aspiring actress living in Paris during the late 1920s, who convinced Matisse, Cocteau and Chagall among other of-the-moment artists to paint her portrait, promising that the works would be featured in her upcoming film. Once her collection was complete, she sold it, took the cash and shipped out for the States. The film was, and always had been, pure fiction.


Staged in the phenomenal Baroque surroundings of the Opera Comique, the show was set up as a progression of Lani’s portraits, each look imagined a different painting. It opened with day looks — trenches, some sheer, some short, worn over flirty bottoms, such as white lace shorts lined in black — that charmed the way Lani must have. From there, Galliano brought in gorgeous color, such as pinks, blues, and Asian prints, on a bounty of signature bias cuts. They came in lace cardigans, wide-leg pants and jackets trimmed in ruffles and floral appliqués, all collection signatures, styled up with exotic make up and big hats swirled with sheer tulle. Then, everything went white in a series of spectacular evening gowns, done in filmy sheer silks: a shirtdress that fell into loose tiers with Deco embroidery, followed by a delicate peasant dress with degrade paillettes, and another bias cut trimmed in feathers. If it looked like a runway fantasy, there were plenty of real clothes for the taking. Besides, clever girls, like Lani, know how to make their dreams come true.

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