PARIS — London is set to steal some of Paris’ couture thunder.
John Galliano said on Wednesday he will make his debut at the creative helm of Maison Martin Margiela with a runway spectacle on Jan. 12, at the tail end of the British capital’s men’s shows and weeks ahead of Paris’ high-fashion week.
In a statement, Margiela said its artisanal range for women would be presented “exceptionally” in London and “around tea time” on the day.
The fashion house, controlled by Italian industrialist Renzo Rosso via an OTB subsidiary called Neuf, characterized the choice of city as personal, returning Galliano to his “formative years and his beginnings in the industry — and it is intrinsically related to the city’s traditional tailoring history and heritage.”
Galliano has already made a high-profile return to the fashion scene in London, turning up last week at the British Fashion Awards to present the Outstanding Achievement Award to Anna Wintour, the designer’s longtime champion who has been pushing for a fashion house — including, at one point, Oscar de la Renta — to hire him. Wintour even wore a custom Margiela dress, not her usual choice of brand.
One of fashion’s most flamboyant and controversial figures, Galliano burst onto the international fashion scene upon completion of his studies from Central Saint Martins in 1984, with London retailer Browns snapping up his graduation collection and displaying it in its windows.
It is understood about 100 people have been invited to Galliano’s Margiela debut, including editors and friends of the designer, 53, who is making his runway comeback almost four years after being sacked by Dior and his signature fashion house following his drunken racist and anti-Semitic outbursts.
A Margiela spokesman said the collection would also be presented by appointment during Paris Couture Week, Jan. 25 to 31.
London Collections: Men will run from Jan. 9 to 12, with Katie Eary, Tiger of Sweden and Nasir Mazhar scheduled for shows in the mid- to late afternoon on the final day. E. Tautz, Paul Smith, Burberry Watches and Craig Green also figure on the day’s program.
It is not yet clear if Margiela might overlap with any London men’s event or presentation, though it is understood the event is scheduled for 3 p.m. Burberry and Tiger of Sweden declined to comment.
The situation mirrors what’s transpired in Paris in the recent season, with couture shows beginning just as men’s tapers off.
To be sure, the defection to London flies in the face of the stringent rules governing houses that use the couture appellation.
Stéphane Wargnier, executive president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, said new and unseen couture designs must be presented in Paris first. For this reason, Maison Margiela will not be listed on January’s official calendar. “We apply the rule,” Wargnier said, noting, “They have the intention to come back to the calendar.”
The development may bring a sigh of relief to regulars on the Paris schedule, as Galliano’s debut at Margiela remains among the most anticipated events of the spring season and is poised to soak up much of the media’s attention.
Prized for his ultrafeminine, historically inspired designs and a particular penchant for bias-cut gowns, Galliano is seen by some as an unusual creative director for a house known for cleft-toed boots, deconstructed clothes and all-white stores. The hire also represents something of a 180-degree turn for Margiela, whose Belgian founder was often described as the industry’s invisible man for his Greta Garbo-like ways. Following his retirement in 2009, the house left an anonymous team to carry on his legacy, steadfastly refusing to identify any of its members. Yet, Martin Margiela has let it be known that he approves of the appointment, and Galliano has been spotted at Margiela’s Paris headquarters wearing a white lab coat, the house uniform.
Maison Margiela is down for a men’s show on Jan. 23 in Paris, but it is understood Galliano is not involved in the fall 2015 range, launched prior to his arrival by the in-house team.
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the British Fashion Council, said, “We are delighted that John has decided to show his debut couture collection for Maison Martin Margiela in the capital. We look forward to kicking off the global fashion calendar for 2015 with London Collections: Men [from] Jan. 9 to 12.”
“We are in a very specialized area of men’s wear, and our job is to remind people that London and Savile Row are the home of men’s wear. We are a voice of expertise, and we’re not about headlines,” said Anda Rowland, codirector of “The English Gentleman,” an installation, done in collaboration with Woolmark, that showcases the work of Savile Row tailors. That presentation will take place on the evening of Jan. 12. “The Galliano news is good for us — anything that brings the highest level of creative talent to the men’s shows is a positive thing, although I understand that some of the designers on the schedule might not share that feeling.”