PARIS (AFP) — John Galliano's show for Christian Dior on Monday, on the first day of couture week, paid an exuberant tribute to the master, much to the delight of the hundreds of guests invited to the event at the Rodin museum.
It was even more "Dior" than the collection he sent out for the house's 60th anniversary last year.
The revolutionary post-war "New Look" silhouette with its wasp waist and extravagant use of fabric, Dior's famous "bar" line suits with peplums, his leopard prints - everything was revisited and subtly reworked by Galliano for his next autumn-winter collection.
The waists of silk suits were cinched by wide belts in patent leather as rigid as the carapaces of insects or stiff with embroidery or studs.
His models wore cloche hats over their dresses in cascades of sheer silk chiffon and tulle in the house's fetish dove grey and pink, and shrugged on jackets in leather or crocodile.
A spectacular black tulle dress glittering with strass embroidery turned the wearer into a giant butterfly with its wings folded at the back.
The singer Janet Jackson, actresses Liv Tyler and Eve Mendes, and former top model Claudia Schiffer were among the celebrities adorning the front rows.
Courageous at a time of worldwide economic turbulence, Stephane Rolland followed his dream and founded his own couture house last year, after years working for Jean-Louis Scherrer.
He kicked off proceedings on Monday in the grandiose chandeliered rooms of the historic Mint and coin museum.
"It's a sort of homage to photographers and cameramen," he told AFP, explaining he deliberately chose monochrome black and white to focus attention on the structure and details of his designs.
There was lots of asymmetry - "because it makes clothes move completely differently" - from the diagonal tiers on his opening poncho to a white shift overlaid with black pleated tulle and voluminous ballgowns with waists raised to the bosom in front and floor-sweeping trains behind.
A men's tuxedo was abbreviated to two slivers of satin lapels over a flounced skirt.
In so far as couture is a laboratory for experiments, Portuguese designer Felipe Oliviera Baptista's collection would qualify, but it was short on the expected luxury factor.
His winsome girl models with bare legs and fluorescent ankle socks, wobbling on high heels, their hair in ponytails and ironed-straight fringes, wore plain sleeveless tops, tunics and long shifts in combinations of apple green, sky blue, tangerine and fawn.
The constructions were interesting but apart from the odd flash of metal studs and lame, the collection was devoid of the rich fabrics associated with couture.
Thierry Mugler's new Edition line, being launched this week, looks closer to the real business although it is high-end ready-to-wear. While Mugler abandoned fashion to concentrate on perfumes, the former head of his design studio Rosemary Rodriguez has cleverly updated the sculptured elegance of his dress code from the heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.
Highlights for next winter are classic sunray pleated dresses, short with cap sleeves or halter-necked for evening, pinned above with wait with a ring or jewel in the shape of the Angel perfume bottle.
Also pure Mugler are a riding jacket with metal overstitching and a sexy suit for the office with flippy kick pleats at the back of the skirt and jacket with nifty pocket flaps.
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