There are few scandals as cartoonishly evil — or falls from grace as pitiful — as John Galliano's anti-semitic rant of 2011. Now, after four years in the shadows, Galliano reenters the fashion industry today as the new creative director for Maison Martin Margiela. He revealed the brand's haute couture '15 collection to a small group of 100 friends and family members — and, if the line's aesthetic is any indication, Galliano is now focused on making a very different kind of statement.
Given that Galliano has always sought out gratuitous flamboyance in his designs, the first Maison Martin Margiela look was surprisingly pared down: a reworked leather mini that evokes the hyper-clinical, deconstructed sensibilities of Margiela. Raw and homespun, this is a primitive-meets-post-apocalyptic moment that seems appropriate, considering Galliano's personal Armageddon.
This ensemble features quite a few Galliano hits: leopard print, red and more red, and a Madonna-esque approach to lace. But, the washed-on-shore-and-left-to-disintegrate look of the dress is pure Margiela.
While it's a classic Margiela move to turn everyday objects into haute couture (past pieces have featured coins, pen caps, fabric samples, and aluminum balloons), Galliano employs a seaside theme that's particularly haunting. Plus, those masks.
It takes guts to pull off lacquered, red innards made of seashells and acrylic.
A Basquiat queen meets a Mexican calavera skull. Galliano is dead; long live Galliano.
Overall, the collection revels in a theme of decay — the slow deterioration of what was once opulent. Using Japanese samurai coats and Victorian silhouettes covered in black-crystal spikes, Galliano takes traditional symbols of honor, grace, and wealth and turns them horrific. The connection between the man and the art is evident: The designer is known for his ostentatious creations and for being aristocratically out of touch. And, it was those very hallmarks of Galliano's persona that eventually brought him to his knees. His comeback tells the story of a man who sees his own recent history as a tragic one and is ready to learn and adapt to his new home. After all, instead of donning his usual top hat, Dalí mustache, and embroidered costume for the final bow, Galliano chose the traditional Margiela white lab coat that all company employees wear. It was a humbling strip-down, but a proud one, too; Gallliano proved that, even without the pomp and circumstance, his work still shouts.