But are we actually ready for John Galliano and his creations? In order to predict the future, we must always return to the past. John Galliano was not an overnight success. Born in Gibraltar to working class parents, Galliano moved to London where he then graduated from Central Saint Martins having his final collection bought by Browns. His eponymous label was created a year later but it wasn’t long until he became bankrupt. He then moved to Paris and luckily had previously befriended supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss who offered to walk in his debut show for free. André Leon Talley and Anna Wintour recognised his talents immediately and introduced a financial backer for his label. This Parisian success became the catalyst to his eventual appointments at Givenchy and Christian Dior.
His first collection for Givenchy was highly praised by critics, it gave a glimpse into the eccentricities that Galliano would later reveal to the world whilst also keeping the brand within it’s classic confinement. Audrey Hepburn’s voice rang out with a recognisably English accent from My Fair Lady’s infamous scene “The Rain in Spain”. This was ironic in itself as he was the first British designer to head a French Couture House, introducing his debut collection inspired by Spain’s traditional bullfighting. The matador inspired tailoring, frills and embroidery with feminine silhouettes in monochrome was a far cry from Galliano’s graduate collection Les Incroyables which took it’s inspiration from the French Revolution. Although one could say that his tastes were distinctly European.
Galliano’s efforts at both Dior and his own label were overtly theatrical spectacles. The set for Dior would always be held in a similar format, but could be adapted to fit theatrical elements, for example; the Dior Spring/Summer 2003 Eastern show incorporated not only huge Chinese gongs but also performing amongst the models were dancers showcasing martial arts. Another one of his most theatrical works was this time for his own label, inspired by a Russian winter wonderland in 2009. A shimmering, round, kaleidoscopic tunnel was utilised as an entrance for the life size Russian dolls depicting a traditional folklore glamour only Galliano could’ve dreamed up. He is famed for his wild imagination, which is not limited to simply the clothes themselves but to the overall performance and experience the audience have when attending his shows. He makes them unforgettable, unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable – something that has been absent in the fashion world for some time, with the exception of very few.
But the question becomes; is Maison Martin Margiela ready for the arrival of John Galliano? When news broke that Galliano was to be appointed Creative Director at the label, eyebrows were raised and initial reactions were of shock and confusion. However upon reflection we can see this has been bubbling under the surface for a number of years. With the recent revelation from Suzy Menkes, of Matthieu Blazy, Head Designer at Margiela, along with collaborations with H&M in 2012 and Converse in 2013 the anonymity essence of the brand is losing it’s potency, it is becoming more consumer centric than ever before. The faceless aesthetic of the models is also becoming a lesser used tool for Margiela as seen on the Spring/Summer 2015 catwalk, showing the shallow nothingness the brand currently gives off. Renzo Rosso, owner of parent company ‘Only The Brave’ which covers brands such as Diesel, Martin Margiela and Viktor & Rolf released a statement following the news of the appointment of Galliano – “I couldn’t be happier. For the Maison Margiela, which deserves a new visionary leader; and for John Galliano, who is a talent beyond definition and time. I always believed in brave, unpredictable choices, and this one is no exception.” Rosso has been phenomenally brave with this appointment for many reasons, one of which is the seemingly polar opposite aesthetics of the new Creative Director and the brand itself.
Many are unsure of what the collaborative process will result in; A diluted version of John Galliano? A complete overhaul of Margiela’s iconic minimal look? Only time will tell, but the point made is that Galliano has worked with longstanding design houses in the past. In none of these design houses did his designs overshadow the brand’s renowned aesthetic. He seems to instinctively know which boundaries to push and which to leave well and truly alone. But will the same be said of classic Margiela design? From the most recent Margiela show, there is a playful fusion of reimagined workwear and sheer feminine shapes. Technically, the appointment of Galliano’s position in the infamous fashion house should be instrumental in emphasising the avant-garde of Margiela and the dichotomy of the brand personalities. I’m sure his influences will make for an interesting and highly anticipated reveal in January’s Paris Couture Week.