References all over the place, influences of traditional Spanish, French and Mongolian clothes thrown together with a dash of contemporary streetwear, a colour palette akin to an LSD trip and clothes worn upside down… for any other designer, this would be a recipe for disaster. For John Galliano, it’s the complete opposite. On Wednesday, the British designer presented a collection that was both relentlessly Galliano and terribly Margiela.
It was no coincidence that the show took place at the Hôtel des Invalides, where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried. The references to early 19th century France were everywhere. After all, this is a historical time that has always fascinated John Galliano, and a recurrent theme in his collections ever since his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins in 1984, titled 'Les Incroyables'. There were winks to it all throughout the show, from the tricorn hats to the Merveilleuses-inspired white chiffon dress with embroidered red lace. But there was so much more than just that: a bias-cut dress bathed in crystals, worn over a sheer t-shirt and with a Spanish peineta (other hairpieces also included beekeepers hats and feathers woven into braids), a pleated empire-line dress with leather biker-jacket sleeves, a ruched plastic top, a space-age silver dress with Toile de Jouy details, an oversized yellow fisherman’s coat.
Which ideas come from the Margiela archives and which ones from Galliano himself in this incredibly intricate sartorial puzzle is kind of a pointless question by now. They are both in perfect synchrony, as proved by an empire-line dress made out of a deconstructed woolen coat stitched to blue nylon, graffitied with the word “revolution” in black and white, a concept that resonates not only in the context of the Napoleonic Empire, but also for anyone living in today’s France, a country divided by politics, semi-paralyzed by strikes of all kinds and hovered over by Marine Le Pen’s dismal shadow. It was love for the birthplace of haute couture that got to the public most, and that proved that, no matter what, in the couture kingdom, John Galliano reigns supreme.