In January John Galliano returned to the catwalk after an absence of four years. That was for the Maison Margiela Artisanal collection and the designer chose to show in London where he grew up and was educated.This afternoon he unveiled his debut ready-to wear collection for that house in Paris, a more competitive and international stage by far and a city where his talent shone for more than twenty years before his troubled departure from both his signature label and Christian Dior.
In recent history, the Margiela name has been associated with a certain minimalism and restraint that appears to be at odds with Galliano's own aesthetic and it is true that this was certainly not a collection in that vein. Many of the Margiela tropes were in place, however, reinvented to pretty, witty and uplifting effect. There were slouchy, wide-legged trousers and lace-trimmed skirts crafted in lining silks. Pinstripe suiting was deconstructed so that wadding and tacking were on display and edges were frayed. Body stockings in a far from obviously appealing American tan were all present and correct and so too was man repelling footwear, here in the form of a studiously heavy and deliberately ill-fitting Mary Jane.
That Galliano knows how to cut a pattern like few others is well known: jackets and trench coats often worn off the body and attached to the backs of delicate sheath dresses looked lovely. Vintage inspired velvet tea dresses were equally desirable.
With their hair crammed into lurid Latex swim caps and their neon make-up applied in ever more childlike a way, at least some of the models who stormed the runway were somewhat batty or even just plain insane. In a world where play safe tactics all too often dominate this was a rather more audacious affair than that.
As the proceedings came to a close there was no big exit or even brief appearance on the part of the recently appointed Maison Margiela designer. And that too was well judged. But for all his new found discretion, it was Galliano's own handwriting that dominated and for those who know and love that, it was great to see.