John Galliano got it wrong in discussing his fall collection for Maison Margiela. In the most recent installment of his “Memory of.. .” podcast in which he walks through the inspirations and processes that go into each collection, he closes with a lovely sounding one-liner. “It’s not about the end product. It’s the journey.”
Of course, the journey of exploration, discovery and realization are essential, especially for a true creative such as Galliano. But this is fashion, and the end product is clothes. What they look like at the finish line matters a great deal, at least to those interested in commercial viability. Galliano’s were exquisite — powerful and beautifully wrought in the complicated minimalism that he extracted from the head-spinning sensory overload that marked his foray into decadence in his January Artisanal collection.
Rather than ruminate on decadent abundance for several seasons, as has been his m.o. with past motifs, Galliano sped the process toward resolution. In the podcast, he talks about the inevitable path of decadence, from overstimulation to decay in a search for the authenticity Millennials seek. Through degeneration, material items can be reduced to their pure core, and that was his approach here. Got that?
That’s not all. The soundtrack said “Swan Lake.” So did Galliano in his podcast, although save for an element or two, you wouldn’t have a clue without his verbal Cliff Notes. (The most obvious connection: a pillowy white coat, inspired by the brand’s signature handbag and topped with a swim cap-like affair, worn by a man as part of Galliano’s gender-neutral crusade).
What the collection was really about: beautiful, high-interest clothes which, released from the cacophony of couture’s excess, proudly flaunted their masterful constructions. Often this included tailor’s stitching, which served as a decorative element and a reminder of the superior skill involved in creating these clothes. Much of the lineup was dark, brooding even, with a hint of a Yohji influence in sturdy silhouettes crafted in classic men’s wear tweeds, flannels and herringbones. The focus was on silhouette, and that deconstructed-reconstructed way Galliano has of morphing a flannel coat into a dress or riding pants into a bustier and skirt. But it was also about the transformative possibilities of specific elements of construction: the way the sloped shoulder of a black felt Crombie coat created a tapered dome shape; or how a sleeve in a contrasting fabric and exaggerated proportions, longer and fuller than expected, transformed coats and jackets from classic to fashion; or the way a left-field fabric took a familiar trope somewhere new. An unfamiliar black puffer jacket? You betcha, in quilted chiffon over white wadding, worn over a black Mackintosh coat.
Yet this collection was not just for the sober set. Some looks worked major contrasts, a motif introduced with discretion in a beauty of a dress, black neoprene in front and embroidered gray lace in back. The point: destabilizing tradition, and Galliano went all in by affixing vibrant printed panels featuring a hot pink flamingo (move over, you haute blue poodles) to the front of a herringbone dress and the backs coats and jackets. And what’s more traditional than a men’s Harris tweed coat? Only Galliano chopped it into a short, boxy jacket, its flamingo-adorned back panel matched to skin-tight jacquard pants and leather boots, and worn by a man in Galliano’s gender-free universe.
The overall mood was of powerful calm, but within that, Galliano teased, at times taking the clothes and his audience to the cusp of frenetic. One can certainly buy into his search to find authenticity in decadence; no one is more expert than he at deep-thoughts fashion musings. Or one could merely feel the thrill of finding that perfect coat to buy next fall and have forever. Either way, Galliano’s journey and the end product are definitely worth the trip.