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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paris Men's Week: John Galliano

Deep in the heart of Paris' 16th arrondissement is the Piscine Molitor, a graffiti-covered carcass of an indoor pool, known for its deco décor and as the site where, in 1945, the bikini first appeared. Its resonance must have appealed to John Galliano, who staged another one of his epic men's shows here.

Galliano designs for men like a wide-eyed boy steeped in tales of daring heroism. There were two characters on his mind this season: Lawrence of Arabia, as portrayed by Peter O'Toole in the 1962 classic, and Napoleon Bonaparte in Abel Gance's haunting 1927 silent film. Galliano began with Lawrence, who went native in a mix of early 20th-century military tailoring and harem-like sarouel pants—worn out, distressed, exotic. And he ended up with a goth Bonaparte as the Emperor of France, a menacing regal figure in brocade evening shirts with jet black embroidery and great coats with still more shirts wrapped around them like sashes. Somewhere in between he slipped in a Sicilian escapade inspired by the pre-WWI homoerotic portraits of Wilhelm von Gloeden, whose juvenile models with wreaths in their hair evoked Grecian antiquity. Galliano's Sicilians, however, were in floral speedos and blousy scarf-print blousons—mama mia!

—Rebecca Voight

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