At the recent Central Saint Martins MA fashion show at London Fashion Week, the Professionnel Creative Award presented by L’Oréal was shared between Gabriele Skucas and Stefan Cooke. Skucas’ victory was an interesting one. The knitwear graduate is the antithesis of what we consider student fashion to be. It wasn’t a bombastic explosion of colour, pushing the boundaries of what we consider clothing to be—Skucas’ work was minimalist in its aesthetic. Her ascetic uniform was simple but a welcome reform. “I think there is radicalism in dressing in the most boring way,” said Charlie Porter on a recent SHOWstudio panel, dissecting the Milan menswear shows.
Skucas’ graduate collection was the first thing that came to mind when John Galliano displayed his latest Maison Margiela presentation at Paris Fashion Week on Wednesday morning. Why? His mind too was occupied with thoughts of mundanity. In this surreal world, heightened normality and familiarity are the only things that we feel are connected with reality. Opening the show was a dissected Macintosh, the bare bones of a Burberry tartan jacket. The ensuing look was a Manila tuxedo, an impeccably-tailored number. They were decidedly rooted in mundanity, the everyday.
Vulgarity has been on Galliano’s mind since his debut at Margiela when he showed denim as part of his couture collection. There is an innate palatability and approachability to his Margiela iteration, as opposed to the loftiness of his Christian Dior iteration which was always so extravagant and standoffish with its severe drama. There was a warmth at times and Galliano for Dior was tremendous work but there’s something truly remarkable about the balance between calmness and madness at Margiela.
Where Skucas and Galliano’s path diverged rested on the latter’s fervency to manipulate and subvert fabrics and shapes. He transmogrified a plaid shirt into a part-python, part-plaid concoction in muted hues; a varsity jacket was eviscerated, it became a hollow shell over a nude bodysuit; the traditional fur jacket was layered and punctuated with a gold nose-ring zipper accent; blazers had thread still attached to them—they were a work in progress but most of the collection was at the end of its life.
Marilyn Monroe’s name was mentioned. The actress didn’t appear in obvious ways (Vanessa Friedman commented also had an “implosion” like Galliano), nothing would be that literal with Galliano. Instead there was her spirit, her glamour burning out like a candle. Marilyn could easily be used to describe the current state of the fashion industry—something glamourised, idolised but there is an underbelly to it and although it could still produce a powerful image, it’s been besmirched and is diminishing. It’s this creative thinking that we’ve come to expect from Galliano.
Curiosity, something he shares with students, over all these years, has never been lost on John Galliano.