splendid review by suzy menkes:
PARIS — With tulle and mother-of-pearl mimicking the shadow play of pen, ink and paper, John Galliano on Monday sketched out the romantic past of Christian Dior .
The show that kicked off the Paris haute couture season was romantic, dramatic and noble. But it was strictly haughty, never naughty and was too centered on fancy gowns to seem like Mr. Galliano at his most frisky.
The designer was inspired by René Gruau, the fashion illustrator for whom the line of a spine, the tilt of a hat and the flow of fabric was enough to create in a few strokes an indelible image of Dior.
So for the spring/summer show, it was back to the 1950s, when lips were scarlet and the pace stately as the models walked like greyhounds down the runway, striking poses for the photographers and showing the architecture of bulbous backs and sunray-pleated skirts.
“That effortless grace,” sighed Mr. Galliano, “and those curious lines that inspired me to create new volumes and movements.”
The photography of Irving Penn was in the mix. So the idea was to bring to life both black-and-white photographs and drawn images through “pen strokes” of beading and layers of gray and black tulle, creating a poetic chiaroscuro effect.
The show was dazzling in its craftsmanship, as paint appeared to wash over the dresses and iridescent embroideries winked at the audience. But Mr. Galliano’s more familiar focus on the body, however historical the clothes, was lost inside the graphic shapes and the vast skirts of ball gowns that came down the runway in an unstoppable stream.
There are moments when the designer’s affection for his master seems touching — and others when you wish he would not genuflect to the original Christian Dior work, but rather start again with a blank page for his personal dreams.
But for Dior, this show will be a chance to dress Natalie Portman at the Oscars, to run the show film in boutiques round the world and to draw traffic to the Web site. The fact that Sidney Toledano, Dior’s chief executive, was hopping on a plane to China right after the show somehow sums up the distance of today’s couture from the Christian Dior days.