John Galliano’s first menswear collection for Maison Margiela opened with a red and black double-breasted overcoat worn with black, spongy slippers. It closed with a white shredded mackintosh over beige muslin underpants. In between, there were plastic sandals which clonked along the catwalk like ski boots, and several of Margiela’s famous split-toed high-heeled tabi boots and a bright yellow padded jacket, blown up like a pufferfish, paired with a sober midi-length skirt.
According to notes distributed at the show, the theme was “dressing in haste”. The idea was to merge “past and present house ideas into one forward proposal for a new kind of glamour”.
Clearly, the aim was optimism. Models walked along a zingy yellow and white set. There were pops of colour, often worn top to toe, in yellow, red, orange and blue. A new house symbol of a triangle containing a circle – or “synergistic glyph imbued with a positive message” as the notes had it – was introduced.
The show, which took place in an intimate salon of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris on Friday, was a significant step in Galliano’s rehabilitation. The designer was hired, controversially, as creative director of Margiela in 2014, three years after he was sacked from Dior after an antisemitic rant in a Paris bar. In a talk at the Central Synagogue in London, after his fall from grace, he spoke about his addictions and said if he hadn’t left Dior in 2011, “I think I would be dead”.
Though there are many who will never forgive him, the fashion industry has mostly welcomed him back into the fold, thanks in no small part to the support of powerful friends such as Kate Moss and Anna Wintour. His recent work for Margiela has been well received.
Historically, Margiela has been known for rigorous, cool deconstruction; Galliano’s most famous creations were completely over the top, often inspired by historical periods, complete with powdered wigs, of which he has said “didn’t exactly help portray a sane image of myself”.
Now those two points of view are gelling. As with his womenswear, the styling was sometimes wacky (one model wore a leather corset belt over a military jacket, paired with a feathered shower cap), but the individual pieces were wearable – even commercial – twists on everyday items, such as a raw-seamed herringbone overcoat inlaid with a panel of cobalt silk.
Margiela’s refusal to shy away from its association with Galliano – rather, its insistence that his vision is stamped across every element of the brand – is a sign that within the fashion industry, at least, his rehabilitation appears to be complete.
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