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A Thread of Exoticism

Fashion designer John Galliano unleashes his characteristic trademarks at a show in Beijing for Dior's 2003-2004 fall/winter ready-to-wear collection.

A fashion show with young kung fu warriors from the Shaolin Temple flying through the air -- it's unusual. Clad in red, they kicked, whirled whips and brandished swords while executing heart-stopping martial arts manoeuvres. The Beijing crowd loved designer John Galliano's flashy opening for his 2003-2004 fall/winter ready-to-wear Dior collection last Thursday.

After spending three weeks in China last year, Galliano has obviously been inspired. He even had a troupe of kung fu performers in Paris for the Dior show in January, which delighted his unsuspecting spectators. The Beijing version went off well in the factory setting.

The peeling red painted walls have been preserved while music rocked the floor of Factory 798 -- a former electronics component plant. Despite the shabbiness, there's an air of artistry lingering in the big box of a building. It's Beijing's newest art enclave.

Painters, sculptors, graphic designers, installation artists and club impresarios use the space to create. The location, the setting, the show was pure Galliano. Often referred to as the "King of Multi-cultural Excess," Dior's top designer is known for satirizing fashion from historical and geographical areas and throwing it into the 21st-century blender.

With this collection, Galliano's trademark use of fabrics stole the thunder in the contest of visual exuberance and creativity. Although his fertile imagination usually impresses, the 2003-2004 fall/winter collection could be termed "down-to-earth" compared to the conceptual mayhem Galliano displayed at Dior's couture collection in January.

Back then he'd just come back from a trip to China and Japan, scandalizing many critics with the extra-outsize scale of his box-shaped, 3D cutting experiments and mind-blowing kaleidoscope of East-meets-West references. Now everything from the January show makes sense, as the inspiration trickles down to the level of wearable, accessible clothes.

Models stalked the lifted catwalk in peach satin jackets with bold organza ruffles worn over skin-tight black rubber trousers, for a look that blended the costume drama of Dangerous Liaisons.

The collection was inspired by dance, from can-can skirts a la Toulouse-Lautrec to the watery green, Degas-style tints used to color the models' faces and bodies.

Take a pink, crystal-embroidered duchesse-satin coat, extravagantly ruffled with layers of organza, or a fragile chiffon dress patterned in mint and yellow.

Rubber leggings, cross-laced up the front, came with a peach-colored, gold-embroidered satin jacket, edged with a multilayer explosion of organza ruffles.

A massive fur in three shades of lilac rode on a tiny, slinky minidress.

The stripes and numbers of football jerseys got thrown onto wispy chiffon.

The black-and-white fish prints from Chinese kites were dramatized into voluminous gowns.

Overall, however, the outfits were better suited to summer, with an off-shoulder peach jersey top and white python mini.

The house's latest must-have -- the "Hardcore Dior" handbag collection -- was further strengthened this season. Shaolin kung fu warriors perform martial arts to open Dior's grand fashion show in Beijing last Thursday.

(Eastday.com July 29, 2003)

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