A prodigal son returns to the runway. John Galliano staged his comeback show on behalf of Maison Margiela towards the end of London’s menswear week. A large group of colleagues and contemporaries like designers Alber Elbaz and photographer Nick Knight attended the show in support.
In chatting with my own social group, it was clear that people were torn on how much they wanted to like the collection based on Galliano’s past offensive outbursts. How “Margiela” would the show contain, versus how much “Dior” or “Galliano” he would inject into the show?
Die hard fashion design fans wanted to look past the designer’s offenses and judge the show on merit. The verdict was that the show was a combination of all of the above. The title of the show was “Artisanal”. This was a reference to the hand tailoring, deconstruction and construction of an intricately made garment and his Haute Couture experience. However, I personally felt that the word “artisanal” has been overused in branding these days. I see it used for everything from Mom-made cookies to mass market mustard, even if these clothes earned the adjective more than most.
The catwalk looks themselves did show the abstract tailoring and dark edge that I remember loving in the 1990s. My fellow Parsons students and I worshiped labels like Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang for their avant-garde aesthetic. John Galliano respected the label’s history and elevated the deconstructed tailoring with couture touches. Shredded fabric edges were paired with exquisite jackets. Built up corsets had a Gothic silhouette, and then paired with harlequin tights. There is that one red leather 'face' dress outfit that literally looks like someone's demons pushing their way out.
Some fans I talked to felt like it didn't go far enough, yet some said it was too commercial. To me, that means John Galliano got it right. Runway looks are not meant to be worn exactly as styled. Each curiosity in this cabinet could be treasured on its own merit. If curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction in a good collection brings it, and the rest of the fashion crowd back.
photos courtesy of Maison Margiela