The successful return of John Galliano for Margiela
Belgian fashion house Maison Margiela announced last October that British designer John Galliano had been appointed their new creative director, marking a return after almost four years since his contract with Dior terminated.
Galliano was disgraced and effectively banished from the Paris scene after a drunken, anti-Semitic rant was exposed in the media. There have been rumours that Galliano will never be forgiven or fully accepted back by some on the Paris circuit. Last week’s showing of his debut SS15 couture collection ‘Artisanal’ in London has been interpreted as a deliberate snub in response, although others have suggested it shows a sensitivity toward recent tragic events, and given the lengths Galliano has gone to show remorse and reparation, it is likely that the latter, rather than the former, is applicable.
Since a conviction in 2011 for his behaviour (receiving a fine instead of a custodial sentence), Galliano has been an elusive figure, having spent time in rehab for substance misuse following the incident. He appeared briefly in New York for a three-week residency at Oscar de la Renta’s workshop in 2013. Prior to his outburst, Galliano was credited as the creative visionary and driving force behind Dior’s incredible success for nearly 15 years.
Born in Gibraltar, Galliano studied in London and then took up an appointment with Givenchy before going to Dior. His designs are characterised by distinctive tailoring and classical influences (for example, his redefinition of the bias cut in the 1990s, originally a 1920s style) gaining immense popularity and critical success in haute couture. The legendary editor of US Vogue, Anna Wintour, has been a long-time supporter of the 54 year-old designer and attended the Maison Margiela show alongside model Kate Moss and footwear icon Manolo Blahnik. Choosing to stage his comeback in London surrounded by familiarity and supporters is likely to have bolstered Galliano’s self-assurance in returning to a high-profile position after his time away. However, it also reinforced Galliano’s professional links and reflected the strength of heritage and tradition in British tailoring, frequently providing the narrative for his pieces. Renzo Rosso, the president of the OTB group which owns Maison Margiela, and who took the decision to invite the designer into partnership. “John is coming from London. He started here,” he said, “I want to start again from London.”
Although originally not a likely collaboration, Margiela and Galliano both share an attention to detail, with a focus on handmade techniques and highlighting constructive elements. Whilst Margiela is known for subtly accentuating the mundane, frequently forgotten or ignored aspects of design, Galliano’s typical style is to exaggerate and take on a more grandiose approach.
Combining these two perspectives has thus far paid dividends: Artisanal was received warmly and with much enthusiasm in welcoming Galliano back into the spotlight. Natalie Massenet, chairwoman of the British Fashion Council stated: “It was beautifully done and you remember what a talent he is.” British editor Hilary Alexander described the pieces as “sensational”. Christopher Bailey, CEO of Burberry called the show ‘magical’ and Instyle.com tweeted that Galliano’s designs were both “beautiful and absurd”.
With his first collection for Margiela being welcomed to such acclaim, expectations are high. Alexandra Schulman of British Vogue referred to Artisanal as a “template”, hinting that leading figures in the fashion industry are confident and exited for the potential of Maison Margiela’s future with Galliano.