John Galliano to Margiela: What does it mean?

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A change of direction for the brand 

Let’s make no bones about it: Maison Martin Margiela has done a complete 180-degree turn on its traditional strategy by hiring John Galliano. Alongside his serious couture skills, the British designer has always been known as the epitome of a certain sort of fashion exuberance, drama and showmanship, which very often put Galliano at the center stage too. The list of extravangant outfits worn as he strutted out onto the catwalk to take his bows runs long.

Contrast this with the quiet, positively hermit-like atmosphere around Maison Martin Margiela, both under the eponymous founding designer and following his silent departure, where the clothes were left to do the talking and the team behind them went publicly unnamed. That was until Design Director Matthieu Blazy was unmasked this July by Vogue’s Suzy Menkes as the face behind the clothes.

« You can’t keep such a talent under wraps, » explained Menkes, but both the house and the designer seem to have disagreed and Blazy left his job this summer. That left the role wide open for Galliano to step into the breach. How he’ll operate back at the captain’s helm will be fascinating to watch. 

The age of anonymity isn’t over

All that said, this doesn’t mean that the anonymous approach doesn’t work; it just means that it wasn’t working for Margiela, if the decisions ordered by Renzo Rosso, Diesel founder and boss of Margiela’s parent company Only The Brave, are anything to go by.

« Margiela is ready for a new charismatic creative soul, » he explained in a statement released Monday, calling Galliano one of « the greatest, undisputed talents of all time » and « a unique, exceptional couturier. »

Despite Rosso’s embrace of a big personality (and bigger public profile), brands are still using anonymity both as a marketing tool and occasionally as a legal necessity. New Parisian label Vêtements, which showed a second collection (and a first ever runway show) in Paris last month, is headed up by former Margiela alumnus Demna Gvasalia. Gvasalia has only just revealed his name (previously hidden due to contractual obligations), while other members of the team are still working secretly.

In the age of internet privacy leaks and haute couture masks (merci Margiela) the whole anonymity issue has been at the forefront of popular culture for a while now; the public loves a guessing game. 

Final forgiveness for Galliano 

Galliano spent plenty of time out in the cold after his shocking arrest and prosecution for anti-Semitic rants on the streets of Paris, followed by a public apology and lengthy treatment for addiction issues. 

His public penance seems to have worked. In February last year he was defended by the Anti-Defamation League after continued tabloid attacks.

« Mr. Galliano has been on a pilgrimage to learn from and grow from his mistakes, » explained Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. « He is trying very hard to atone. »

Later last year he was welcomed into the atelier of fellow designer Oscar de la Renta in New York City, where he helped with the 82-year-old’s Fall/Winter 2013 collection, but he didn’t stay permanently. He’s also spent some time as creative director at Russian cosmetics company L’Etoile

This latest role suggests that both the designer and the public are ready for his return to the spotlight. We can’t wait to see the results. 

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