Such a curious collection. Before I get into it, the invitation of John Galliano to "sit in" on the final stages of this collection at Anna Wintour's urging and Oscar's acquiescence, was in itself a very daring prospect. Both designers are in essence at the end of their careers, Oscar due to his age and John due to his disgrace. Age is something that can not be turned back, but disgrace is something that can be remedied, even forgiven. To my thinking this was a soft pedaled attempt to reinstate Galliano to the only world he knows. What mystifies me is how a cross pollination of two such completely different species could produce something cohesive. Watching this show repeatedly, I couldn't help but think I was looking at a horse with a zebra's butt or vice versa. What the show did have was a lot of buzz. It was clearly the moment of the season with a front row that was unusually packed with the high, the medium and the bottom feeders. From Valentino Garavani and his partner Giancarlo Giametti to Anna Wintour, all the other lower tier editors and Fashion directors of the major stores to the likes of Rachel Zoe and her ilk, they were all there.
The music started with a creaky cover of "As time goes by"sung by Bryan Ferry setting the tone for what was meant to be an earth shift. Out came girls with high rise felt cloche hats over stringy hair with wispy ponytails and a series of draped and wrapped fischu-collared jackets in leather and cashmere over longer slim skirts and chic school marm shoes; all very sober, very sensible. The waists were caught with belts tied instead of buckled. (apparently, Galliano held a seminar at the studio as to how to correctly tie a belt, but from the looks of it no one took notes) From there the looks flipped back and forth between obvious Oscar-isms and then Galliano-isms like dueling designers. Granted the overall effect was more interesting with greater design energy than Oscar's last several seasons, but it was disjointed and chaotic. One moment there was a dowdy tweed suit, gently frayed along the edges with another annoyingly tied belt holding the jacket closed. Then came a series of Toile de Jouy printed dresses on matelasse that looked more like the result of Annette de la Renta's gentle urging. There were also other prints that were drawn from Coromandel screens trimmed in sable that looked forced and matronly in the larger picture.
Then Galliano took the ball and ran with it. Skin tight stretch leather pants under embroidered leather cardigans or YSL-ish hooded capes in chiffon and another in cashmere set yet another tone. The Oscar lady was left at the starting line and the race was on a different course altogether. Suits and coat dresses were draped and tucked in a very abstract way that were more feats of technique than anything else, clearly not an Oscar trademark. Soon it was cocktail hour and a few dresses came out that were lovely, particularly a black crepe number with illusion draped above the bodice. A Dior inspired strapless that exploded behind like a lovely chartreuse apparition from the past. An exquisite gown of black cut velvet and beads on a ground of nude net and chiffon was probably the prettiest gown of all. But then we were back to boisterous Ikat-printed cocktail dresses and gowns that fought for attention on a ground of enormous cabbage roses. That had to have been Oscar rebounding. Suddenly the models appeared with completely different hair and make-up in a series of gowns that were unmistakably John's. We were back to his bruised-eyed, marceled and greasy-haired courtesans sleep walking their way to oblivion.
This was an old trope that didn't sit well, especially when the dresses were mere shadows of what one would expect from Galliano by way of the Dior ateliers. If that's the result of sobriety then maybe this was the end. Oscar finished off the show with 2 enormous faille gowns with silver embroidery a la Versailles in brash colors. The crowd looked confused as they ran for the doors. Valentino never altered his pursed lip expression and Anna remained inscrutable behind her shades. Maybe this was a dry run for a future as creative director of Oscar de la Renta if/when he decides to retire and then again maybe not. Who knows? The End.
*images courtesy of style.com * video courtesy of OscardelaRenta TV