The anticipation, speculation and theories had been building like a crescendo for months. The venue a modern cut glass shard between Victoria and Westminster. The occasion – the return of John Galliano.
Everything was stripped back – as clean as the clinical white lab coats of the house. There were only two lines of seats, an invited 150 and no photographers, a polished metal floor, and one line where fashion must walk forward.
You could hear a pin drop as guests hand picked by the designer, such as Rifat Ozbek, Jasper Conran, Manolo Blahnik, Alber Elbaz, Kate Moss, Nick Knight, took their seats for the show to begin.
A trumpet cry signalled the start, and the music began, to an audible intake of breath. The lyrics sang by without words, but instrumentally, and where she would have sung ‘the minute she walked in the joint’, there was a click, click, click of heels and the wait was over.
Galliano has always been a master showman, of suspense and seduction. He has also always been an artisan, and piece-by-piece showed his virtuoso skill, mixing tulles and slashing tailoring, piling on remnants of bijoux and playing with proportion to created his own cabinet of curiosities. As fabrics layered together, the monotone soon exploded into vermillion twists of Arcimboldo style faces that showcased the fruits of his labours. Frock coats, worn with micro denim shorts, cinched waists elongated with twists of fabrics, corseting, and with each footstep you could sense the joy of exploration and creativity. Oversized tuxedos were worn dishabille, shoes were two toned and stacked on surrealist wedges, and even the simplest red dresses were slashed with artistry. From the jigsaw of ideas, jewellery, fabrics, velvets to tulle, bijoux and embellishment the flounce of red walked off every emotion seemed stitched into the layers of these creations.
His final – his toiles – usually the roughs and workings that stay hidden here came out as the finale. The trials, tests and birth of these looks, and his own rebirth, made a hauntingly beautiful procession each as important part of the story just told. It was like nothing you had ever scene. A haunting beauty to mark the start and return of a talent much missed.