Couture is nothing if not theatre - of skill, of the designer's imagination, of luxury and of decadence. This is truer for no one more so than John Galliano. Known for over-the-top, flights of sartorial fancy during his time at Dior, his couture creations at his new appointment, Maison Margiela, are no exception. Though the show began with a relatively innocuous optic white utility dress, sparks of the designer's vivid artistry quickly began to show: a surrealist lip painted on the throat of a model here, a drape masquerading as a blown-out brush stroke of glitter there, eventually graduating into explosions of opulent prints, sculpted bodices, exaggerated trains and macro twists and knots.
Another designer known for his love of theatrics, Jean Paul Gaultier, architected his set into the fashionable '80s nightclub, Le Palace, (to give you an idea of just how fashionable, the staff wore Mugler), leading a parade of club kids down the catwalk in suitably decontracté style - models smoked, sipped champagne and high-fived each other in passing. Anyone who was anyone was there - David Bowie's shock of red hair and sequins, Grace Jones in the power-shouldered blazer, Sinead O'Connor in her fez and the collection's muse, Edwige Belmore - Paris' 'Queen of Punk' - in swathes of silk pyjamas, glittering stripes, schoolgirl ties, lamé and JPG's signature hyper-sexuality.
Also known for their love of fantastical forms and their signature brand of 'fashion art', design duo Viktor&Rolf offered a whimsical, charming series of dresses that, like Galliano's, began with a seemingly simple white dress - but of course, nothing is simple with Viktor&Rolf. Look closer and you'll find a cubist face constructed in relief of the garment - eventually evolving and mutating over 22 looks, sprouting eyes, lips, curls of hair and dismembered limbs, until finally leaving model's faces completely obscured. How they made it down the runway blind in these comical creations, we'll never know.
At the slightly more wearable end of the scale, Elie Saab and Valentino produced ethereal collections fit for otherworldly creatures. Inspired by Indian dress, Elie Saab's glittery, gauzy gowns were reminiscent of Titania, Shakespeare's fairy queen in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Translucent silks adorned in appliqué, sparkling paillettes, glitter thread and lace work were anchored, unexpectedly, in embellished, lace-up Wellington boots. In contrast, Valentino's ethereal nymphs walked barefoot, a modest accompaniment to the majestic collection of goddess gowns. The Valentino woman wore intricate body chains with gold serpent headpieces along with the most delicate of gowns, finished in velvet brocade, finely pleated silk adorned with glass beads, mint chiffon and sheer tulle - fabric of the gods, certainly.