FASHION MADNESS

On Thursday evening, John Galliano delivered a wildly fanciful fall collection full of wit, imagination, wacky props and fab clothes. Jeremy Scott’s collection was playful, too. Martin Margiela, however, took a dangerous detour.

John Galliano: He is the madman savant of fashion, daring to indulge his own brilliance, all critics be damned. And on Thursday night, John Galliano staged a wild, witty romp, one that dazzled right from the entrance, which announced his name in huge neon letters over the door, the “I” a-twinkle like the Eiffel Tower. Imagine a child trying to recreate the pleasures of a holiday carnival with backyard ingenuity. Now imagine the child has the vision and talent of an artist, all still unfettered by convention. The result was both remarkable and mad, a show in which exquisite clothes played hide-and-seek with giant paper-doll cutouts and Rose-Bowl-float wannabes — a cardboard frog, chicken, kangaroo, swan — everything fitting together like a couture glove.
All of this could only be the work of Galliano and his merry band of collaborators. And still, you wonder how it happens. Who, as one editor mused, gets up in the morning and says, “Let’s put a sauce pan on the head of a boy in a dress”? Who says, “The heck with fittings; let the girls be surprised”? Who then splashes their bodies with random, vibrant paint strokes? Who says, “Stilettos are good, but stilettos five sizes too big are better” — especially when he’s launching a shoe collection this season? Who says a particular girl will make a divine boat float?
The one, the only, the spectacularly fanciful John Galliano. He filled his runway with a parade — and a parade it was — of mix-and-match clowns, ballerinas, athletes and assorted characters. They wore odd-ball layers of flimsy dresses,T-shirts, intentionally ill-fitting lingerie, while flaunting accessories, sometimes multiple notice-me handbags all at once, all in crazed combinations.
Galliano said his desire was to strip away preconceived notions of chic and to “recapture forgotten innocence, that moment before you stop thinking for yourself. You make your own decisions until that day when you go off to school, and are told what to think and how to do it.” He called the style corollary “parrot fashion,” a school in which he never enrolled. “It’s a forgotten innocence,” he said, “but not lost, as we proved in the past.” While many in his audience reveled in the sheer joy of the proceedings, others sounded the familiar refrain: “Where are the clothes, John?” They were there to be found, and not only in the fabulous Lillian Russell gown with an elaborate Victorian Valentine bustle, but in beautiful bias dresses, coats and a long Easter suit in pastel plaid. Yet Galliano had to know this collection would do nothing to calm his critics, and it’s possible that its unbridled, childlike indulgence was his way of thumbing his nose in their direction. “I can see why you’d say that,” he said. “But no. When I first joined [LVMH], Mr. Arnault said, ‘John, you must learn to live with your critics.’ That was the world’s best advice.” Galliano added that sales have been “wicked.” With orders for the pre-collection and first two days of post-show selling already surpassing expectations, he characterized his commercial staff was giddy with delight. “One person asked, ‘Can we cut the frog on the bias?”‘ And he’s not steering a mad ship? “If I am mad, I have already designed my own straitjacket in the [Dior] haute couture,” Galliano said with a laugh. “But no, I’m not mad.”

Jeremy Scott: Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t the only funny man in town this week. It was Jeremy Scott who had the last laugh on Friday night, as he presented a collection chock-full of wit and humor, as well as plenty of fun, understandable clothes. What a nice ending to an otherwise-exhausting Paris fashion week. Forgoing his previous dramas — other than a congested entrance — Scott, this time out, dazzled his audience. And, with a great collection last season, this cult hero is on a roll.
“This show is dedicated to the rue de Rivoli lady,” said Scott before the show. “Actually, I went and looked for her, and that woman doesn’t exist anymore. She only exists in my mind.” Et voila! A frolic of Seventies-inspired clothing that screamed tres chic, bon chic from beginning to end: three-piece suits in brown wool pinstripes, cowlneck sweaterdresses emblazoned with “Paris,” souvenir T-shirt style, or a logo vinyl trench, vest, culottes and floppy hat. If that statement isn’t bold enough, try one of his furs — big on fluff and big on motif, with Paris written all over it.
But Scott didn’t bank on Paris alone. Declaring his collection “A Tale of Three Cities,” he also sought inspiration from London and Los Angeles. He played on the kitsch of London’s Ritz, sending out an array of trompe l’oeil tuxedo bodysuits, sweaters and knit vests. As for La-La land, it was the screen goddesses of the Thirties and Forties that caught his fancy, inspiring a finale of white satin gowns, batwing jumpsuits and pajamas. The former jokester, who relied on silly theatrics in his earliest collections, has now found the right balance of wit and wearability.

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