John Galliano has joined Maison Martin Margiela as creative director, Renzo Rosso, the Italian entrepreneur and president of OTB, which owns the house, has announced. Galliano’s first show, for the “artisanal line” will be held during Paris couture week in January. The artisanal line, formerly designed by Matthieu Blazy, is the house’s closest thing to haute couture. And doubtless, it’ll get closer, what with the wisdom of fifteen years experience of Christian Dior’s couture that Galliano brings with him.
The appointment by Rosso ends Galliano’s three years in the wilderness since the designer was fired by Dior and later convicted and given a suspended fine by a Paris court for perpetrating a drunken anti-Semitic outburst in a bar in 2011. He has spoken of spending his exile striving to atone for the offense and hurt he caused. He received instruction from Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League while facing his “demons” and addictions to alcohol and drugs. Oscar de la Renta gave Galliano a one-season “design residency” for the fall 2013 collection, and he’s reportedly been mentoring students at his alma mater, Central Saint Martins in London. In a sober and contrite interview with Charlie Rose, he said he realized he could only come back from the offense he’d caused “step by step,” but hoped that one day he’d be “given a second chance.”
Now that one of fashion’s most extravagantly talented designers has his second chance, what will he do with it? Interesting to speculate. On past form—ever since he stepped out of Central Saint Martins in 1984 with his French Revolutionary-themed “Les Incroyables” collection, Galliano has been a flamboyant narrative designer, a merger of history, world cultures, delicate femininity, glamour and color. Martin Margiela, on the other hand, one of the original Antwerp Six to have stormed out of Belgium in the eighties, left his house in 2009 with a legacy of wittily chic upcycling, re-purposing of found materials and immaculate tailoring swathes of a whole generation has missed.
How will two such disparate visions come together? One way of looking at it is that perhaps they shouldn’t. Galliano should seize his opportunity to express himself authentically without being hampered by reverentially carrying on the house “codes” (he did enough of that at Dior). On past record, the nearer he is to spontaneity, the better and happier his collections are—whether that be spinning tales of fugitive Russian princesses, louche twenties habitués of Montmartre, Ukrainian gypsies, Shanghai showgirls, or Napoleonic revolutionaries. A BritishThe South Bank Show documentary from 1996, now on YouTube, captures Galliano at his best, at the point where he was just about to take up the reins at Dior. Watching that, it’s hard not to be struck by footage of possibly the most exquisitely exciting collection of his career, the one with Kate Moss and co. mincing and flirting around São Schlumberger’s private hôtel particulier in mini-kimonos and saucy-pretty lingerie in 1994.
Maybe there’s a good augury there. That collection was made on a shoe-string budget out of scraped-together favors and a few bolts of black silk and pink organza. Maison Martin Margiela, however well-funded, can’t possibly have the same resources as Christian Dior. Maybe that’s a good thing for Galliano: The freshest creativity often springs from making do with what’s at hand, as Margiela himself proved over twenty years. And there’s another thought, too: Now that Galliano has just one fashion house to consider maybe he will be able to devote the rarest of all luxuries—time and concentration—to develop something which will blow fashion’s socks off. It needs it. Source:vogue