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July 08, 2000 09:12am
Galliano Stuns Again with Fetish Fashion
Source: Reuters
by: Joelle Diderich

PARIS (Reuters) - Fashion critics can't seem to decide whether John Galliano is a genius or a madman and Saturday's launch of the autumn-winter Paris haute couture shows brought them no closer to an answer.

The unpredictable British designer left his audience by turns stunned and delighted with the mixture of grotesque and elegant creations in his latest collection for Christian Dior, with sexual fetishism the guiding theme.

Nuns and nurses in spike-heeled bondage boots mingled with decadent grande dames from the turn of the century. An African mask became an oversize hat and army officers' jackets were taken apart and put together again with long, skirt-like trains.

Colors were ajumble, with soft shades of dove, absinthe and tea rose clashing with turquoise, scarlet and ink black.

A soundtrack of chanting priests, cracking whips and porn movie moans set the scene for outfits which appeared to be plucked straight from the writings of the Marquis de Sade.

A nurse stepped out in an ecru-sequinned bias dress with green silk bustier, her mouth smothered in black masking tape and wielding a huge syringe.

Another model struggled down the catwalk in a rigid see-through plastic corset over a lilac duchess satin dress, her hands trapped in leather cuffs grasping a horse whip.

Faces were hidden behind mesh masks, mouths plastered in oversized plastic lips borrowed from blow-up sex dolls.

Accessories included giant crucifixes, and Dior's classic Prince of Wales check found its way onto an asymmetrical leather skirt.

But to the possible relief of Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods group LVMH which owns Dior, Galliano also displayed the stunning tailoring which has made him a favorite with Hollywood stars such as Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Bias-cut satin slips in silver and olive, an off-white column dress encrusted with crystal beads and a plum satin crepe gown embroidered with shooting stars drew gasps from the crowd.

In scenes recalling the Champs Elysees circa 1910, older women in extravagant ostrich feather hats and ruched satin jackets paraded haughtily with gentlemen in tails.

U.S. director Steven Spielberg, summing up the mood after the show, said the collection was breathtaking but he could only imagine his wife Kate Capshaw wearing three of the dresses.

``It was extraordinary,'' he told Reuters. ``I loved the use of the older models, I thought that was incredible.''

Supermodel Elle MacPherson, sharing the front row with the Spielbergs and model-actress Milla Jovovich, pronounced the collection ``amazing.'' But asked if she would consider wearing any of the outfits, she demurred with an embarrassed giggle.

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