Whenever I find myself looking back at legendary runway shows gone by, I feel a twinge of jealousy knowing that I was still in onesies (or, um, not alive) at the time that such fashion history was made. Every time I click through a recent show, I cannot help but wonder: Is this that moment? Is this my this generations equivalent to Dior’s Spring/Summer 1998 Couture extravaganza, or Alexander McQueen’s “Golden Shower” show? With every passing season I get a feeling deep down that somewhere, on one of those runways, a spectacular fashion moment is being produced…only we don’t see it that way yet.
Well, let’s just say that Monday’s (January 12) Maison Martin Margiela Spring/Summer 2015 Artisanal show was not one of those moments. Oh, no: The sense of history-making was instead so palpable you could already smell the textbook ink – or, rather, magazine print. Why? Because Monday marked the official return of one of this century’s greatest (and most controversial) artists: John Galliano.
The Spanish-born Galliano, who is best remembered for his wild years helping Dior before his unceremonious firing in 2011, has spent the past four years out of the limelight, only to reemerge last October upon his appointment to creative director of Maison Martin Margiela. Monday served as his debut at the helm of the brand, and to say a lot was riding on the collection would be an understatement. Not only did Galliano have to make one final plea for reacceptance into the public’s good books, but he had to prove that the raw talent and imagination that had sustained him both at Dior and his namesake brand had not been snuffed out by the difficulty of the past few years.
The clouds had gathered over his collection before the models even took to the runway. In a very Galliano move, the designer caused controversy by moving the Artisanal (Margiela’s answer to haute couture) show from Paris to his adopted hometown of London. Some saw this as last-ditch move made out of desperation: Galliano has a plethora of supporters amongst London’s fashion crown, Kate Moss and Suzy Menkes among them. Others applauded the independent spirit it took, reading as reassurance that the irreverent Galliano they had so adored was not gone entirely. Either way, the air was fraught with anticipation as the intimate crowd of 100 gathered at an ultra-modern office building in the city on Monday afternoon.
The collection. It is honestly hard to put it into my own words. One thing was clear to me: he did not disappoint, nor had his talent in any way waned. While the collection was not Dior Galliano’s typical explosion of luxury and opulence, it was, as vogue.com so eloquently put it, a “coming-together of two great fashion imaginations”. The looks included Margiela’s signature faultless tailoring and deconstruction theme, with Galliano’s own penchant for all things sexual certainly well-represented. Maison Martin Margiela has always approached it’s Artisanal collections with a “digging through the trashcan” process, reworking old trinkets and precious fabrics into some of fashion’s most intriguing pieces. John Galliano definitely embraced this idea, using shells to craft three-dimensional faces onto particularly eye-catching garments, as well as incorporating a range of fabrics from denim to velvet into the line-up.
While Galliano did indeed design an endlessly provoking Artisanal collection for Margiela Spring/Summer 2015 (check out some highlights below), the jury is still out as to wether or not the man who was once on top of the fashion world is truly “back”. In my opinion, the answer is not a simple yes or no. The flamboyant, long-haired designer with the Dalí mustache who indulged his fantasies at Dior, he’s gone. But there is a new Galliano in town: one that, having finally beat his addiction, is full of the same promise he had when he first graduated Central Saint Martins in 1984. From his new hairdo to the tentative bow he took after Monday’s show, it is clear this is a new chapter in Galliano’s life and career – if not a whole new book – and I feel that his work from here on out with reflect this. So, there may be no more theatrical spectacles, but there is sure to be plenty of beauty and undeniably fantastic fashion from him in the years to come.
The Old Galliano is dead; long live New Galliano.