Life has a very interesting way to lay its cards on the table. These past weeks, the world was taken hostage by the events that took place in Paris, as the result of radicals who take religion extremism a little too far — sorry, way too far.
A few days after the terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo, John Galliano — the fashion-god designer who in 2011 fell from Dior’s heaven straight into public-disgrace hell over anti-Semitic remarks at a café in the same city — went back into the spotlight. This time, though, he’s away from the City of Light as he presented his couture debut collection for the Maison Martin Margiela in London, now Maison Margiela.
This wasn’t Galliano’s second chance in the game; two years ago, he joined the late Oscar de la Renta to help create his Fall 2013 line in New York. Rumor had it that issues over money were a key factor that caused Galliano to not remain in a permanent position at de la Renta’s studio.
If the “third time’s a charm” expression prevails over reality, Galliano’s new residency is here to stay. It started strongly, supported by the presence of industry heavyweights such as Anna Wintour, Alber Elbaz, the designer at Lanvin, Christopher Bailey, chief creative at Burberry and Galliano’s longtime best friend Kate Moss among many other relevant faces at the show. The fashion world indeed wants his creativity and geniality back — who wouldn’t?
Everybody was #MargielaMonday aware of the moment. The fruits of the Margiela and Galliano marriage, or “margianno” as some people are saying, didn’t disappoint. The designer safely walked between his past and the present, creating an elegant and odd collection trying to follow some of his new mason-solid known principles — craftsmanship and bricolage — to reach the “avant-garde” essence of Margiela, while still lightly leaving traces from his Dior exuberant days, especially when chic and transparent chiffon looks took the runaway.
As the true genius who speaks his own language that he is, I see Galliano’s collection also as a personal message carefully written with details that added the final touch to each look, from the toy cars trim implying a journey on the first beige jacket look to the holes implying wounds on the tights of the fourth look. Look 14 had an embellished glove resembling an arm cast. Masks has always been a part of the Maison Martin Margiela shows, it is expected.
What really called my attention in Galliano’s first presentation was the references to the work of sixteenth-century artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo in two looks. Yes, the whole world recognized the faces, but the truth is that Salvador Dali believed that Arcimboldo used a “self-concealment” idea in his works — according to the 1990 Larson and Chastain study, self-concealment is a psychological construct defined as “a predisposition to actively conceal from others personal information that one perceives as distressing or negative.” Well, need I say more or is Galliano smartly sending a message to those who can read it?
In the show lineup presentation between these two Arcimboldo references, two dresses also featured hidden faces uncovered from afar, both had eyes with fringe lashes. In my book, hidden faces are supposed to hide the real self behind internal behaviors (good or bad).
Hidden faces and masks are very different. I know it well; I myself have made use of both to create looks. The red final look with the skeleton couture bride wearing a tiara — a true reminiscent of the Roman catacomb’s bigger-than-life jeweled skeletons — is a clear indication that Saint Galliano is back from the dead. Would his persona join him later? Let’s wait and see …