Can fashion deliver more than the momentary adrenaline rush that comes with scoring the "it" handbag? Can it make a lasting impression? Designers are under such intense pressure these days to produce commercial merchandise or sign their names to fast-fashion emporiums like H&M and Target that they seem to have forgotten about one of fashion's vital mandates: fantasy.
That is precisely why John Galliano's Dior haute couture show in Paris was so spectacular. The designer, who seemed to have been languishing lately under directives to create salable clothes, let his wacky imagination soar again--this time from the couture ateliers of Paris all the way to the cherry-blossom-filled gardens of Kyoto. One after another, models in geisha makeup and with orchids and ikebana arrangements caught up in their hair emerged in glorious confections that recalled hand-painted kimonos, origami folds and even the bark of a bonsai tree. Backstage, the designer described the show as Christian Dior meeting Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
Of course, couture frocks don't have much impact these days, since they cost the same as a waterfront condo in Miami and their influence on lesser-priced lines has waned. But Galliano's ostentatiously uncommercial show was a statement in itself. With it, he thumbed his nose at relevance and the drive to get designers to inveigle their clothes onto the red carpet or to compete with the high-frequency deliveries at H&M. From the moment the first model stepped gingerly under a bow of blossoms in a fuchsia kimono jacket to the last sigh of a corseted bride swathed in a tulle origami cloud, the message was clear: Dream on.
Go to time.com/fashion to hear Kate Betts discuss notable looks at the couture shows