“It’s too Galliano. It’s not Margiela enough!” were the murmurings that could be heard immediately after the Maison Margiela ready to wear show, despite the raucous applause and cries for John Galliano to emerge (he did not – apparently he had even disappeared through the backdoor before journalists could even get to him). It’s the latest round of Goldi-maison conversation where we’re quick to judge a collection based on preconceived (and often rigid) notions of what a house stands for. As Alexander Fury pointed out in this article on BOF though, does the end customer actually care about the fit of a designer to house? Are they even aware of the in-and-out motions of creative directors so long as a bricks and mortar presence of their brand with clothes on the racks and bags on the shelves exists.
That’s not to say I don’t care about fit or the past. But for me it’s a positive thing that maisons have become mouldable, changeable and evolving entities. Did people say that Balenciaga wasn’t Balenciaga enough, when Nicolas Ghesquiere was sending out 80s Star Wars-inspired sweaters? When Raf Simons presented Kansai Yamamoto-esque psychedelic catsuits at his last haute couture Dior show there was unanimous praise but no query as to whether Monsieur Dior would have approved of these creations. Maisons have in effect provided the corporate-backed means for some of fashion’s most innovative and forward thinking designers to show their prowess and do so on a massive stage. Attempting to link every new collection’s connection with a maison’s past feels increasingly futile. The question we should be asking is do we want our creative directors to replicate and tweak house codes like dutiful house-keepers or do we want them to push fashion forward on the whole, like their maison createurs did in the first place?
So then we come to John-not-Margiela-enough-Galliano’s debut at Maison Marginal. The name Martin has already been lopped off. One could say Margiela stopped being the Margiela that it was when the creator left the house and it came under the ownership of Renzo Rosso’s Only the Brave group. And yet the narrative that has dogged Galliano’s return to fashion is, does he fit the house? It has something to do with our collective attachment to the label with its relatively recently departed founding designer (even though Martin has reportedly gien his blessing to the hiring of Galliano) But as the is-it-Galliano-slash-Margiela chit-chat murmured on after the show, I preferred to draw conclusions about the clothes, which is why I wanted to go and see it again in the showroom.
For me they stood out and in the showroom, revealed embedded features that were hard to read into on the runway. The talking point of the show were Galliano’s madcap characters, hunch-backed and stalking down the runway like deranged bag ladies (some even clutched suede paper bags) that might give you a fright on the streets. Their neon-ringed eyes and lips were siren signals of their eccentricity – which happened to be a key word of the season. I’ve forgotten how many times I had written “eclectic” and “anything-goes” into show write-ups this season, especially when Paris really kicked in. One of the key shows that really cemented this ‘trend’ was this Margiela collection with its “ephemeral muse” (re-affirmed by the press notes) where through “calculated imperfection, the individual emerges.”
The judgement that the collection was “Too Galliano!” seemed to stem primarily from these zany off-beat women, led by their clown-like demeanours rather than what they were actually wearing. No talk of the fitted jackets with their curved exaggerated cuffs and excellent tailleur-meets-flou outerwear with extended coat linings that converted into slip dresses (you can wear them both as coats or as dresses with coats hanging off the back on the straps – and yes they’ll be sold like that). Or the detachable sleeves that came off vinyl peacoats. Or the visible strands of silk on the back of floral film coupe embroidery on the faintly Ossie Clark-esque dresses and blouses, sometimes trimmed with a whimsical bit of marabou. Or the velvet suits that looked ever-alluring and keyed into the interiors-derived fabric that has decorated so many A/W 15-6 collections. Then there were the shoes, which in the showroom looked ripe for picking – rounded ‘Tabi’ boots reshaped and adapted for Margiela 2.0, mary janes with enlarged straps and double heels and loafers with elongated tongues.
We’ll keep talking about the fit of the designer to the house but the fit of the clothes ultimately matter – and even as Galliano’s spirit raged on through those hunched shoulders and misfit swagger – it’s interesting to note that he’s already moulded his aesthetic substantially to fit Margiela. These clothes were abound with transformation, deconstruction and hidden secrets, created through conscientious research. Nonetheless, do we want Galliano back to tick off Margiela-isms at a house that has already undergone extreme change, or do we want him to be given a blank canvas (which Margiela arguably is anyway with its anti-code approach) to create freely? Food for thought…