Why London is Crucial to Galliano's Comeback

Rebecca Lowthorpe on his carefully orchestrated return

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In a surprise move, Martin Margiela announced today that John Galliano, the house’s recently appointed creative director, will show his first couture show in London on 12 January, not, as was planned, in Paris as part of that city’s couture week.
 
Could this be the kind of masterful PR move required to re-launch the designer’s career  – a designer who many still regard as a legend? Paris, after all, holds the shocking memory of a designer out of control, substance-fuelled and making anti-Semitic remarks late one night in a bar which led to his dismissal at Dior and, as he put it rather shakily at the British Fashion Awards two weeks ago before handing Anna Wintour her Outstanding Achievement Award, that he had become ‘a fashion outcast’.
 
London, on the other hand, holds sweeter memories. The young and impressively talented Galliano and his 1984 Saint Martins graduation collection, ‘Les Incroyables’ – the likes of which had never been seen - that set him on the road to fashion stardom. The small studio he set up at the end of the King’s Road in Chelsea became one of London’s most creative hubs that triggered this city’s reputation as a hotbed for fierce fashion talent. He not only inspired legions of young Brits to become designers in the first place, but also influenced where they would apply to become one - Saint Martins School of Art, in turn, became the biggest breeding ground of designer stars.
 
Perhaps Galliano’s carefully orchestrated return after a four-year absence will be received with more sensitivity here in London, in front of a no-doubt attentively chosen audience of 100 fashion insiders, ‘around Tea Time’, as the invitation puts it, and in an as yet undisclosed location ‘intrinsically related to the city’s traditional tailoring history and heritage.’ Could it be referring to Savile Row? Somewhere in Spitalfields, in London’s East End where tailors still ply their trade?

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Gif above: Johan Galliano, the Dior years. All photos Getty Images
 
The most pressing question is what Galliano will do for Maison Martin Margiela? His appointment flies in the face of everything Martin Margiela ever stood for – Margiela, the invisible designer, was famously never photographed and never interviewed, believing his designs should do all the talking. John Galliano, meanwhile, made his bow central to proceedings at his Dior shows, often taking to the stage ‘in character’, sometimes in as outrageous an outfit as possible.
 
But that was then and times have changed. And Galliano would like us to believe he has changed. As Renzo Rosso, president of president of OTB (Only The Brave), the group which owns Maison Martin Margiela, said of Galliano’s appointment: ‘I look forward to his return to create that fashion dream that only he can create.’

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