CHRISTIAN DIOR: John Galliano — master showman, storyteller extraordinaire, of course. But Galliano just might be a marketing whiz as well. The collection he showed on Tuesday was so beautiful, so filled with fantasy, that one could easily miss the smarts behind it all.
The designer, who in the past has lured his guests to all sorts of exquisitely cryptic Parisian haunts, chose this time to show in the Carrousel du Louvre. But unlike anyone else who has ever showed in its halls, Galliano completely transformed two of its showrooms into a romantic 19th-century salon. He ordered up an installation that took days to complete — boiserie, chandeliers, clouds literally drifting beyond glorious French windows. Each section was decorated like a room — the boudoir with its carved and painted bed, the bath, with its sumptuous show of porcelain.
And he enticed a stellar and diverse front row: Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Beart and even former 007 Roger Moore. What they saw was a reinterpretation of the designer’s spectacular Belle Epoque couture themes.
“I strongly believe that haute couture can be a laboratory of ideas for a house,” Galliano said before his show. “All that time, energy and investment can be distilled for a commercial world.”
The pieces were all there, from the cutaway coats over endless skirts to the glorious lineup of eveningwear, inspired as well by the boudoir art of Louis Icart. These are clothes for languid, sensual gestures. They came in silver lace and blinding sparkles, in romantic prints and embroidered tulle. There were lace-edged jackets, fringed flapper dresses and sexy minislips, often laden with jewels.
What the show lacked was anything for the kind of woman who gets out of bed before four p.m. Galliano obviously has no interest in putting day clothes on the runway, and their omission does leave one both curious and a bit hungry. But back in the showroom, there were shirts to go with those jackets, sheaths to pair up with the cutaway coats and a whole range of innerwear that will be available in Dior boutiques.
That’s not to say that Galliano doesn’t have his own take on the commercial. In this show, he flaunted just about every ancillary category imaginable, from handbags and that glorious jewelry to innerwear and provocative lace hosiery. As for the clothes themselves, sure, they play to a woman’s fantasies. But they were also playing to that front row. And when someone like Nicole Kidman wears a dress to the Academy Awards and it’s satellited around the world, it’s the stuff of dreams — and sales. In other words, smart stuff.
LUCIEN PELLAT-FINET: Who doesn’t love a great cashmere? And a four-ply one at that. Pellat-Finet had some of the coziest around, including snuggly hand-knit cardigans. For spring, he decorated his staples with his personal coat of arms, even working it into a side-draped skirt, a style that fit right in with the Japanese inspiration sweeping Europe. But his woven pieces, especially sequin-trimmed striped pajamas and silk satin bermudas — often looked awkward and ill-fitting. In the end, the collection would have been better back in the gorgeous Rue de Rivoli apartment/showroom where he usually shows it.
ERIC BERGERE: Think of Saint Laurent’s Seventies style souped up for the Nineties, and that’s what Eric Bergere is all about this spring. In his first runway show, he gave a young and sexy twist to an army of khakis in the form of sleek pantsuits and classic safari jackets. Bergere also sent out a slew of cotton trenches slashed mini-length, narrow-leg jumpsuits, suede blousons plus crisply shaped jackets that were worn over nothing but a pair of skimpy briefs. When Bergere’s hip young fans head for the beach, he puts them in djellabas over cutout maillots, while for evening, there are loads of jersey disco dresses ready for the dance floor in Ibiza.
COSTUME NATIONAL: Ennio Capasa described his spring collection as a “look at the future and not at the past” — and he did just that, parading out group after group of nylons and other synthetics, all in somber tones of gray and black. While there were some great men’s-style chinos and fun jackets worn with micro-shorts, most of the collection looked tricky, with lots of asymmetrical draping and his versions of clam-diggers, which just didn’t work.

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