On the way to the John Galliano show last night the heavens opened. The torrential downpour was hardly surprising. It had been so close during the day that it took me nearly an hour too cool off after a shower. Arriving at the venue, a disused factory in the south of Paris, there was an eerie atmosphere as people stood huddled in groups under the railway bridge that ran parallel down the street, cutting it into two halves. The current state of fashion could not have been illustrated more succinctly. The bridge seemed to symbolise the disparity between what was real and the illusion of The Show.
The rain ceased, the Gods de la Mode seemingly having wept enough. A strange, quasi-comical dance commenced as precariously-heeled fashionistas gingerly negotiated muddy puddles in The Long Walk to the The Show. The atmosphere was quite laid back, all things considered. There was Queen Carine, the editor of French Vogue, leaning against a railing at the loading bay whilst being interviewed by a Japanese journalist. She wore a heavy man’s coat over her shoulders like a cape. Her kohl-smothered eyes seemed alert but the weight of the coat bellied the constant strain of a month of shows, mad scrums, transatlantic flights, parties, endless schmoozing and air kisses.
I stood for a while, people-watching. I pondered the meaning of the show invite, a mock clapper board. It hinted at the silver screen. It was clear that Galliano had gone to the movies this season. At Dior he had been inspired by film noir. For his own eponymous label the Hollywood brief was sure to be more recherché in its interpretation. It later transpired that his famous research trip for this season had been to LA.
We stood for a while longer.
Finally, we were allowed to enter a cavernous hall were we stood a for while. A sense of impatience grew as we were kept waiting, human sardines cloaked in darkness. The air was heavy with the scent of knackered perfume, warm sweat and sour breath.
We stood for a while.
A group of girls began clacking their clapper boards and soon the whole room followed suit. The bouncers at the curtained entrance to the inner sanctum paid no attention. The clacking eventually died down.
We stood a while longer.
Then bang! The rush inside began as a few hundred worn out souls funnelled their way in.
A solitary Grace Coddington. Her haunched I’ve-seen-it-all before shoulders said it all. What followed was a bizarre procession of the ridiculous. One by one, and sometimes in pairs, The Celebrities began to arrive. Dita Von Teese! Sequined pale blue dress, ruby lips, porcelain skin. Fragile. Her lips smiled in a strained way. Hey, she’d seen a lot of shows and done a lot of smiling over the last few weeks. Give an artiste a break-down! David Lynch kept flashing through my mind, no doubt aided by the soundtrack to Mullholland Drive that played. John, what are you saying? The paps were in a feeding frenzy, like piranhas gorging of the flesh of the famous. Flash! Flash! Dita! Ditaaaaaa!!! Then like the fishy shoal that they were they suddenly shifted focus as they caught the scent of more celebrity prey. Katy! Katy! Kay-teeeee!!! She’s-hot-then-not-so-cold Katy Perry appeared for role call, veritable beau Brummel, Russel Brand, in tow. Overly glamorous pink evening dress. Perfect hair. Placid expression. Anna Piaggi, fashion’s greatest living eccentric, shuffled past, ignored. You know that things have gone awry when fashion’s grande dames are treated almost like gate-crashers walking into their own party to find it full of strangers.
Then it was the turn of Leigh Lezark, girl about town. This was one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Squashed next to the International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes, the earlier downpour had created a leaky cavern. Suzy dutifully held up an umbrella to protect La Lezark but perhaps, more importantly, her signature quiff as the paps “papped” away. Hilarious!
Then The Almighty arrived. Prince, pretty in cyclamen. Frenzy. Frenzy. Frenzy! The show finally began, photo-ops over with, deals sealed in tabloid and cyberspace.
What about the show?
Well, it was classic Galliano. Pigalle Revisited via Sunset Boulevard and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” crossed with “Grey Gardens”. Faded grandeur. Expired fame. Mild schizophrenia. All paraded through a red laser show and large bubbles that descended onto the catwalk to disappear into a puff of smoke moments later. A beautiful but telling commentary on the ephemeral nature of celebrity. Katy and Dita looked slightly at unease. Prince loved the bubbles, apparently. One stunning dress in yellow bias cut chiffon with panels that danced around the model had every red-carpeter clocking it it up, licking their ruby lips… In reality, the real show centred on the Piranha Moment and Galliano’s infamous bow. He apparently even has a rehearsal for his bow. Now that I would love to see, the master posing for an absent audience!
And then it was over. I leave you with this post-show image. My camera died on me so I regrettably couldn’t take more. It says it all in a nutshell.