John Galliano Joins Belgian Fashion House

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

John Galliano is back in fashion.

Galliano, who was fired as artistic director of Christian Dior in 2011 after directing an anti-Semitic tirade at fellow patrons in a Paris bar, was named Monday as creative director of Maison Martin Margiela, the relatively small but influential Belgian fashion house.

“Margiela is ready for a new charismatic creative soul,” Renzo Rosso, president of Only The Brave, which bought a majority stake in Maison Martin Margiela in 2002, said in a statement Monday morning. “John Galliano is one of the greatest, undisputed talents of all time.”

In a follow-up email, Rosso said: “I couldn’t be happier. For Maison Margiela, which deserves a new visionary leader; and for John Galliano, who is a talent beyond definition and time. I always believed in brave, unpredictable choices, and this one is no exception.”

Certainly Rosso, who built his empire on the high-fashion jeans brand Diesel, and now also owns majority stakes in Viktor & Rolf and Marni, understands the uses of controversy. Last year he named Nicola Formichetti, a former stylist for Lady Gaga, as creative director of Diesel.

Galliano’s appointment, rumored during much of Paris Fashion Week, which ended last Wednesday, but repeatedly dismissed by company executives, comes after several other comeback attempts by the 53-year-old designer (at Parsons the New School for Design, at the London art school Central Saint Martins, and in the studio of Oscar de la Renta) did not come to fruition.

The Belgian house was founded in 1988 by Martin Margiela, one of the Antwerp designers who took Paris by storm with their dark, shredded garments. But Margiela also founded his house on the idea that a designer should remain in the shadows and let his work speak for itself: he was never seen or photographed, and never made a public statement that was not signed by the entirety of the brand. His stores look like white concrete shells.

After he retired in 2009, the brand remained true to this imperative, and never officially named a lead designer.

Galliano, on the other hand, became famous as much for his constantly changing personal appearance as his clothing, and at the end of every Dior show would take a bow to a special drumroll, in a special outfit (toreador, astronaut) accompanied by two bodyguards on either side of the runway. (The official portrait accompanying Monday’s announcement, taken by photographer Patrick Demarchelier, with Galliano’s hair pulled back and the designer dressed in a conservative suit and tie, suggested that perhaps a certain makeover was underway.)

Margiela is nowhere near the size of the billion-dollar-plus Dior, but it has over 50 stores worldwide and a turnover of approximately 100 million euros. Galliano will be responsible for womenswear, menswear, a “couture” line called Artisanal composed of clothes made from found objects, a more accessible line called MM6, fragrances and jewelry, as well as stores and marketing.

Galliano’s debut will take place at the Paris haute couture shows in January.