John Galliano is a rare creative talent. Hardly a news flash, but worth stating at what feels like the threshold to his full reimmersion into mainstream fashion. Baggage aside (his clothes are what’s under review), when realized to its fullest — which, anyone who’s been around a while knows, wasn’t always the case — that talent is a thrill to observe.
On Wednesday morning Galliano proved himself once again that designer in full. His Artisanal couture collection for Maison Margiela was a masterwork of invention and craft. In the house codes-designer balance, his own perspective won out but didn’t annihilate; the collection was more Galliano than Margiela with invocations of deconstruction — he now calls it “draped-in-haste” — a point of significant fusion.
Galliano fused far-flung references, some obvious (Japanese, Chinese, Yves Klein, his own archive), others arcane and highly personal. And he sourced from around the globe — Chinese mud silk lining, Aran knits, Madagascan raffia, a French tapestry, his beloved British tweeds. He worked them all with incredible technique, for example, in twisted takes on the smoking and a pair of men’s pants morphed into a jacket, the legs knotted in back over a sequined dress. And remember the old line about the girl pretty enough to look good in a burlap potato sack? Has Galliano got a coat for her.
He had his way with decoration throughout. He arranged mirror shards into rose-motif aprons over a mannish coat and a dress in vintage lamé, and drew faint flowers randomly onto a gown (worn backward) and cut them out halfway for an appliqué effect.
There were signature flights of fancy in a green coat with a giant flying buttress collar, the bride in swirls of taffeta and thick pillow rolls of what looked like dry cleaner’s plastic, and in the graphic face paint on some of the models. Such moves harkened to another time, absolutely. These suggested not a time warp but a statement of artistic self. They also indicated range from the fantastical to the real, injected into a lineup that also included an unfettered alpaca dress slung from green panne silk straps and a lean suit that one might call simple were it not for its giant dot pattern overprinted with two huge palm fronds, one on a sleeve, the other, the skirt. Then there was the long, dusty pink coat, seemingly plain. But it was made from hand-painted Neoprene mesh with two sculptural arcs framing a bright blue obi bow in back — breathtaking.
As for the footwear: Shoes were mounted onto high, thin, mirrored half-circles. One or two girls stumbled along the way, but their journey fascinated. Just like Galliano’s.