Christian Dior: Street Chic. — so John Galliano dubbed his spring collection for Christian Dior. The man whose shows once celebrated this contessa or that baroness, not to mention the likes of Theda Bara and Pocahontas, now prefers to celebrate more current icons of style.
The natural progression of a brilliant creative mind? You bet — and a business mind, as well. For years, while Galliano thrilled his audiences with reveries of the pseudo-historical storybook kind, critics hurled accusations that he couldn’t make clothes for the bright light of day. Well, guess what? Those critics were as wrong as the proverbial white after Labor Day. Today, Galliano’s day clothes are selling up a storm, and not to the lunching Lady types, dearie. The once stuffy Dior boutiques have taken on a whole new joie du mode, and the cool girl merch moves fast. They can’t keep his instant-classic J’adore Dior Ts in stock, and just try for the hot item of the moment, such as fall’s star fanny pants — sold out, ca-ching !
Still, a Galliano runway is always more about a raucous fashion party than window dressing for real life. And it’s said that a good party is all in the mix. To that end, for spring, the designer delivered on two counts. He populated his runway with a motley crew, boudoir babes, hip-hop wannabes, Elvis impersonators, cowboys and oh, yes, an assortment of Middle-Eastern types. And what they wore was all mixed up, frills, denim, jewels and more, all in a single look.
Galliano opened with a group of what looked like sexy undone bed dolls, their powdered faces and pink circle cheeks more demure than their slip-and-corset ensembles. And who else would accessorize sweet Tinkerbell frocks with military accoutrements? Never Land isn’t the paradise it used to be. Then Galliano really started to pile it on, Ts, dresses, baggy pants, beaded jeans, an Elvis suit here, a flashy dice embroidery there, and a lineup of Viva Las Vegas bathing beauties. Ever so deftly, he worked in swami pants and veiling, and even did an East-meets-Wild-West number with cowgirls in feathered Stetsons who nonetheless displayed an affinity for Arabian exotica.
Galliano’s coats and jackets looked amazing; the gigantic pants, while not for everyone, amused, and although few women will hit the streets with a delicate bias dress worn like a Batgirl cape over whatever, you just know that, on its own for evening, the dress is divine. As always at a Galliano show, there was so much to see that much of it got lost, and this time around, his message was less the shock of the new than continuing a hot concept. At Dior, the street beat goes on, and it looks great.

Valentino: It seems that Giancarlo Giammetti isn’t the only high-powered executive with whom Valentino communicates regularly. The designer must be in close contact with some other notables — George W. Bush and Tony Blair, for instance. Because someone must have told him that the war will be short, and that by spring women will want all sorts of frilly victory clothes.
And frilly these were, with a Latin beat. But then, who could blame Valentino, after scoring the wedding of the year, the Jennifer Lopez-Cris Judd nuptials? Loath to flaunt his inspiration too literally, Valentino instead opted for a Mexican affair, although one could see shades of early J. Lo in just about every flounce and bounce. This collection was an ode to chic frills, so many delivered so relentlessly that at times it felt like the invasion of the girly-girls. On the other hand, you’ve got to give it to Valentino for knowing how to choose his trends. Certainly no one can accuse him of hopping on the ruffle truck — for him, it’s been a career-long trip, so why shouldn’t he work it now? Wisely, he felt no urge to ease his proportions — the Val gal has never liked loose, never will — nor, for that matter, to trifle with the silly dropped-crotch genie pants that are all over other runways, but that no one wears 364 days a year — October 31 the lone exception.
No, Valentino’s pants are tight and sexy, except for their ruffled infusions, quivering chiffon tuxedo stripes, multiple mariachi tiers or alternating rows of matte and shine. These go with equally gussied-up tops and the occasional racy T-shirt. And speaking of racy, Val showed an oh-so-steamy swimsuit or two, before going back to his primary focus that also included tiered lace skirts, embroidered lace shawls, even breezy ruffle-edged chiffon ponchos, the perfect diva-esque wrap. His idea of sleek centers on the corset, worn as a belt or worked in tight little skirts and dresses, also ruffled and ruched. Valentino showed precious few of the fab suits his Ladies love — Lord Fauntleroy knicker getups in pink or apple green shantung don’t count — but he did tease with a handful of lovely coats and dresses. For the most part, though, he steered clear of such mundane matters as dressing for day, choosing instead to turn his runway into a frill-seekers paradise.

Ann Demeulemeester: No matter how hard-edged Ann ever gets — and trust us, it can get there — there is always a grace to the things she does. They have a kind of poetry in motion, of the Patti Smith variety. Grungy rocker hair, heavy arched brows, even the requisite black boots are the basis of Ann, but throw in those dark, dreary clothes, a heavy black belt and you’ve got her on the runway. Seasons may change, and hemlines can ride up and down, but she’s not one to make those bountiful leaps onto the newest bandwagons. There wasn’t a floral, ruffle or pair of harem pants in sight. She’s strictly the no-frills type. Instead, her true revelations lie in her maniacal attention to details and something as subtle as the way a skirt wraps.
Take spring, for instance, when her first model strode out in a black wrinkled silk tank and low, slouchy pants, held up with a swashbuckler’s belt. Sound familiar? You bet, but Demeulemeester’s talent lies in exactly the way those pants slouch. Look closer, and you notice a loose, drawstring version that hangs to one side — the kind of subtle difference the designer played with this season. And her skirts, this time around, were morphed into panels that wrapped and looped through rugged belts and worn over longer dresses or pants. The effect? A flapping, billowy third layer that moved as briskly as the girls racing around the runway, though it failed to capture the excitement Ann has created in the past. She took the occasional stab at new ideas: double-breasted admiral’s jackets, complete with regimental silver buttons; loose dressing gowns with hip-slung belts; relaxed, oversized silk jackets that could be your boyfriend’s (at least, Demeulemeester’s vision of men’s wear), and even some pretty peach silk dresses that were wrapped and bound across the body with tulle and fastened with a kilt pin. And on the pin hung a glittering crystal prism — perhaps to capture a little good energy during these troubled times.

TRIBAL BEAUTY: Strong makeup and braided hair keep cropping up on the Paris spring runways.
At Yohji Yamamoto, for example, makeup artist Pat McGrath dabbed circles of yellow powder pigment on models’ cheeks and chins, painted white stripes over and under eyes and washed eyelids with pale blues and reds. “It is something simple, bold, tribal,” explained McGrath, who was backstage at the show. “It’s very primitive and colorful, very happy — what we need right now.”
At Hussein Chalayan, she also stenciled foundation on faces a tone or two darker than a model’s own complexion, using rubber templates.
Braids are also a la mode. Hairstylist Eugene Souleiman is a big fan, weaving them into coifs at Dries Van Noten, Yamamoto and Stella McCartney, among others.

STELLA SLASHED: Stella McCartney generally gets rave reviews for her collections from an adoring British press. Not this time. While the tabloids sang McCartney’s fashion praises on Tuesday, others gave the designer’s first effort under Gucci a thumbs down. “McCartney’s new look is rude, crude and old hat,” blared The Times of London, while The Independent was even harsher. Its fashion editor, Susannah Frankel, said the show featured “some of the most shockingly tasteless ensembles yet seen on a Paris catwalk.” Playing on McCartney’s use of Cockney rhyming slang on tops and dresses, Frankel said the correct message for the collection was “Pony and Trap.” Just substitute a “c” for the “t,” and you get the drift.
If that weren’t bad enough, the Notting Hill-based label Slang alleged on Tuesday that the collection bore a distinct resemblance to its own designs. Slang, which is carried by such London stores as Harvey Nichols and The Cross, launched its line of tops with Cockney rhyming slang this spring. The collection includes a T-shirt bearing the word Bristols, which is a style McCartney used for spring. Slang’s owner Clay O’Shea said that he’s seeking legal advice about the similarities.

GRAPHIC ARTS: Could French Vogue be ready for a makeover at the hands of M/M, the hot French graphic studio known for its work for Balenciaga, Yohji Yamamoto, Bjork and photographers Ines Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin? Source said that French Vogue is in talks with the firm, which would become a creative and graphic consultant. The magazine’s longtime art director, Donald Schneider, recently resigned to devote himself to Vogue Homme International. Gardner Bellanger, president of Conde Nast France, which publishes both titles, declined to comment.

COMEBACK KID: She’s back on the runway this season — sashaying in Milan for Moschino and in Paris for Hermes and Eric Bergere. But is Ines de la Fressange also poised to return to her self-named fashion house, which fired her in 1999? Fressange verified that she is being courted by current management to stage a comeback. But so far, she isn’t biting. “They’ve sent some beautiful orchids, but they should contact my lawyer before they start trying to woo me,” said the svelte ex-Chanel model. “Anyway, being back on the runway is enough. Being a designer means being responsible. Who wants all that hooey?”

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