My first memory of a “show” by Martin Margiela was when, in the late Eighties, I and a small group of fashion faithfuls went to abandoned territory around rough social housing on the outskirts of Paris — and saw an entire collection from the Belgian designer presented inside plastic dry cleaner bags.
My most powerful memory of John Galliano, who will take over as creative director at the Maison Martin Margiela, is the collection he showed in the empty mansion of fashion patron São Schlumberger, when a handful of mannequins posed around a dismembered chandelier.
What could the two have in common that has prompted the appointment of Galliano as creative director of Margiela by Renzo Rosso, the head of the Only the Brave empire that includes non-conformist brands such as Diesel, Marni and Viktor&Rolf, along with the Maison Martin Margiela?
The connection that I can see between two apparently different designers — Margiela is Belgian; Galliano is Latin, from Gibraltar, raised in England — could be a show for Christian Dior in 2000, when Galliano shook the Paris couture universe with a collection inspired by the city’ s homeless. The handwork that went into creating the hanging threads and destroyed clothes was considered either as a poetic vision or a shocking insult – depending on the point of view.
Margiela himself was a fashion advocate of re-making and re-cycling — with even his upscale pieces made from found objects such as thimbles or wigs.
Galliano’s return in January to haute couture — or “artisanal” as the Maison Margiela calls it — will be the sensation of the season. It also marks the return to the catwalk of a designer who was fired by the house of Dior, part of the LVMH (Moet Henderson Louis Vuitton) group after the British-trained designer made anti-Semitic remarks when drunk.
Since then, Galliano has attempted to atone for words he says were uttered under the influence. He worked briefly with American designer Oscar de la Renta in New York, but that turned sour when his personal look, well known in the fashion world, was misconceived as a take on Hasidic Jews.
This chance to atone and to join a thriving fashion group is a rare opportunity for Galliano. The Italian-based empire of Renzo Rosso can give him a platform for his creativity, while working for someone who understands the creative mind.
What will happen to the house of John Galliano, still owned by LVMH and with Galliano’s former colleague Bill Gaytten at the helm? No comment on either side has yet been made.
Renzo Rosso said: “Margiela is ready for a new charismatic creative soul. John Galliano is one of the greatest, undisputed talents of all time. I look forward for his return to create that Fashion Dream — and I wish him to find here his new home.”