I asked Taguchi, who has been watching fashion shows since the 1970s, if there was a rare show that she vividly remembers. She was still in her twenties when she saw Kenzo in the 1970s. She reminisces that when Sayoko Yamaguchi appeared on stage like a dancer, the clothes, music, and models were all one, and there was a poetic sentiment to Kenzo that she has never forgotten. One of her top five shows is Givenchy's Haute Couture (Spring/Summer 1996). “I had the good fortune to see the first haute couture show by the young John Galliano, who had just taken over from the founder Hubert de Givenchy,” says Taguchi.

She continues, “Even before I started working as an editor in my late teens, I was blindsided by the performances of three butoh performers: Tatsumi Hijikata, Kazuo Ohno and Akira Kasai. The experience of the stage was so decisive for me that I can categorize people into those who have seen it and those who have not seen it. I would say that this became the basis for my later discernment of various performances. In those days, most fashion show stages were just prologues, it seems like something is about to start, but it ends abruptly without anything beginning. This is not the case if you focus only on the clothes, but I was often disappointed with the stage that was just a prologue. However, in Galliano's show, where a square stage was built on three sides of a huge old gymnasium in Saint-Cloud in the suburbs of Paris, and models walked around on a large floor, each one wearing an evening dress, seemed to play a leading role in the story, and I felt like I was watching a grand silent play. Galliano himself must have given meticulous instructions to the models, from their gestures and postures to the way they walked. The clothes, the space, the composition, and the staging were all clear and evoked a sense of drama in the viewers, making it a supreme theatrical and artistic space that once seen would never be forgotten.”

For about two years from 1996, Taguchi was not only the editor-in-chief of MR, but also the editor-in-chief of HF. “I was told by her superior, ‘since Paris Men’s has just finished, you can’t say you don't have time. Go see haute couture at least once.' I had been working for a men's magazine for a long time, and I was not interested in haute couture because I felt it was not something I could wear. However, the first time I saw the haute couture collection, it was far more beautiful than I expected. The AD, who had been entrusted with the layout of MR and trusted in his aesthetic sense, was unusually impressed by the many photos of Givenchy that arrived from Paris, and when the younger staff in the office saw the completed pages, they gazed in silence at the beauty of Galliano's dresses.”

I opened the May 1996 issue of HF with a feature on haute couture, which included a stunning back view of a model in a violet gown by Galliano with a train of seven to eight meters. The magazine's focus on three maisons - Christian Lacroix, Christian Dior which was then under the direction of Gianfranco Ferré, and Givenchy by Galliano - seemed to convey the excitement Taguchi felt when she witnessed the show. In the editorial note of the same issue, she wrote, "Haute Couture has the power to make you pay attention to the clothes.”

At the beginning of the same feature, there is a text titled "The Eighth Art, Haute Couture Continues.” Noting that the spread of prêt-à-porter and the economic crisis have put the significance of the century-old tradition of haute couture in jeopardy for journalists "outside France," the article goes on to say "In France, they call film ‘the seventh art’, but haute couture is called ‘the eighth art’ (there are various opinions on this) and they praise the excellence of handiwork. Haute couture craftsmen are likened to living national treasures in Japan.”

Taguchi says, "I deeply agreed with this statement based on the unique French aesthetic that sees mode as culture and art. At the Givenchy show, I remember feeling the passion that went into the handiwork of the haute couture artisans who created the extravagant details, and I was reminded that it is a privilege for editors like us to be able to witness and experience this. Our challenge is finding how to portray that realization in the pages of our magazine."

According to the magazine's report, Galliano took over the house and "immersed himself in the study of clothing history" for his first collection which included 19th-century crinolines, early 20th-century Belle Epoque styles, '20s Paul Poiret influence, '30s and '40s style suits, and smoking styles and oriental dresses. Each of the 50 models wore one of the 50 dresses and evening gowns that are steeped in the history of fashion. Taguchi, who was one of the 900 people in the audience, recalled, "there was none of the richness or excess that I later saw in the brands he was involved with, and the colors were quiet and innocent, with rose pink and lime green in grayish tones, except for black. Some of the dresses and suits were reminiscent of Hubert de Givenchy's muse Audrey Hepburn's appearance in her many works. Perhaps, as a successor, Galliano's sincere focus was on the Givenchy house and the founder's own qualities of nobility and elegance. All of the dresses I saw, interpreted in Galliano's style, showed his deep respect for the very foundation of the house. It was also clear that he was using his talent to make it ‘new age’. It could be said that he led the way in showing the true value of haute couture to the next generation.”

All the models were "intoxicatingly melded into the clothes Galliano had created," and they all looked like "expressions of beauty" each with a purpose to serve on the stage. At the same time, the audience became intoxicated with the dresses and performance on stage. When I encountered the extraordinary appeal of the creations that only a couture house can produce, and the theatricality of the overall direction of the show, I was convinced that Galliano was a genius créateur destined to continue on.

Toshiko Taguchi

Born in 1949. Chief editor of MR High Fashion and High Fashion, now a freelance editor.