I have always been fascinated by how various fashion editors and stylists in different moments, places and times can merrily garner assorted references and yet end up fixing a mood or a look that conjures up a similar expression of glamour.

While leafing through the September issue of British Vogue my memory was pricked when I saw a fashion editorial, styled by fashion director Lucinda Chambers, entitled Prima Donna. Not only was this a beautifully crafted story but it also took me back to a fashion shoot I had styled for The Times Magazine in the mid-1990s called Tempting Fate. Central to both narratives is a divine seductress barely draped in an array of fancy visible underpinnings topped off with svelte tailoring and sensual wraps that hint of geisha, a twist of tulle veiling and a bunch of blousy flowers. The scene-setting text for each story featuring words such as ‘dominate’ and ‘control’, ‘provocative’ and ‘decadent’. The aim of both sets of pictures and, I would imagine, each leading lady is blatant: to seduce.

The shorty kimono jacket that hangs languidly from the shoulders of Oxana, the model that appeared in Tempting Fate, was from John Galliano’s fabled Autumn/Winter 1994/95 collection. This was the show that was staged in the forsaken Parisian mansion of socialite Sao Schlumberger without need of any brouhaha – frills or furbelows, studs or stallions. While Galliano had achieved critical success from the moment his final collection took to the runway a decade earlier he often struggled in his early years to turn acclaim into cash. So on his uppers, this was a collection created with just a few bolts of black fabric (and a hint of pink) and an imagination fired by necessity and invention. Reaffirming, once more, that less can often produce more and indulgence, of any kind, can often lead to creative atrophy. There is nothing less than the indulged artist.

Galliano’s imposed poverty provoked a startling response with a collection that has become the stuff of legend. This particular season the clothes were the show, cut in satin, sheepskin, chiffon and organza, worn with a handful of Harry Winston diamonds. ‘Total refinement,’ enthused Andre Leon Talley, calling the designer ‘a fragile poet, an endangered species in the fashion world.’ Galliano described the collection as a fusion of the purity of the kimono (‘so erotic’) and 1940s European tailoring, and when lost for words in an interview following the show, the designer could only find one: ‘Glamour’.



Photographer: Mario Testino

Stylist: Lucinda Chambers

Model: Catherine McNeil

Make-up: Tom Pecheux

Hair: Sam McKnight

Vogue, September 2013


Photographer: Martyn Thompson

Stylist: IRW

Model: Oxana

Make-up: Carol Brown

Hair: Kevin Ford

The Times Magazine, c.1994.

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