In rare interview, John Galliano explains how Maison Margiela helps him be freer and more calm

The designer, whose 2014 appointment as Margiela’s creative director was rather controversial given his public breakdown of 2011, has proven the doubters wrong as the brand’s sales have increased by 30 per cent

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 December, 2016, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 5:47pm

Since John Galliano joined Maison Margiela in Paris in late 2014, there have been no live interviews, no post-show comments about the collection, not even a catwalk bow. He has been a completely enigmatic presence – a contrast to the flamboyant person who took his bow at the end of the Christian Dior and his own runways shows, prior to his very public breakdown in 2011, which led to his dismissal from Dior.

He did, however, turn up on stage at The Business of Fashion’s Voices conference in Oxfordshire, England to give a rare interview.

Galliano was there to discuss the creative process behind his ready-to-wear and Artisanal collections. His focus is on Artisanal (the couture-like collection presented during the haute couture shows) and the “undiluted creativity” poured into that collection provides the “essence” of the brand, from which the ready-to-wear and accessory lines are derived.

John Galliano brings a touch of drama to his Margiela ready-to-wear debut

He talked about his “openness” and sense of creative freedom that he now feels, and made constant references to his design team, which the 56-year-old designer calls “his kids” – while his muses are “Instagram babes”.

Galliano has admitted that, prior to leaving Dior, he didn’t know how to write emails or use a mobile because everything was done for him. But through this small, tight-knit team he has discovered Snapchat, Instagram, emojis and a young fresh way of thinking.

As an example, he had been questioning his boredom with the traditional composition of embroidery and found himself talking with Paulina, one of his “Instagram babes”, about her predilection for tattoos and he said it suddenly clicked – tattoo embroideries. Similarly, after a long hiatus he is revisiting his signature bias-cutting that created the evocative, silk and lace 1930s-style gowns for which he is famed.

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“I started playing with tweed and it kept looking like old Galliano, so I am trying it with wool and tweed to make it a bias-cut of today. I want to make it very Maison Margiela and it seemed that playing with masculine fabrics and tweeds opened a whole new way of looking at bias and I thought it could be a nice way where Martin Margiela’s and my work synthesise in a beautiful way.”

Galliano’s hiring by Renzo Russo, the Italian billionaire owner of both Diesel and Maison Margiela, was a big surprise to many in the fashion circle.

“I wanted to do it on my terms,” recalls Galliano. “If I was to come back, it was to do it with people that I trusted. When you have worked with someone for 25 years you develop a shorthand and you don’t have to speak, it can just be the body language when something is not working.”

Galliano is striving to find a balance in his life and talks of being more free. And while he still deals with deadlines, his perspective has changed.

“I used to think I had to be perfect, but actually it is quite limiting. I have realised that imperfection gives me many more possibilities and avenues to travel down. I am more open now, a little bit braver maybe, I am now more comfortable with chaos.”

Rather than toiling long into the night he takes the 10-minute walk home at the end of the day, with his dog Gypsy, to “cleanse” his mind.

The partnership seems to make both sides happy: sales at Margiela have gone up 30 per cent since Galliano took over, and Galliano feels a compatibility with the experimental approach of the brand.

“I am not here to curate the brand,” Galliano says. “This is a whole new exploration, a landscape that I am learning and it’s done with joy and passion.”