Maison Margiela Spring 2015 Couture - You can usually tell how pleased a designer is with his or her collection by their end-of-show appearance. Last Monday in London, John Galliano took his first proud bow since his much talked-about leave from Dior in 2011. Wearing Maison Margiela’s signature white lab coat (his appointment there being another much talked-about incident), he was clearly happy to be back and rightfully pleased with his first couture collection for the house.

Imagine the pressure, to already be the center of 2015′s biggest fashion moments before the first look even hits the runway. The suspense finally ceased a couple of hours ago when we were able to see Galliano’s ‘Artisanal Collection’ live from London on what’s come to be known as #MargielaMonday. Did he pay homage to the house’s original designer? Did he execute some of his own signature looks? The answer is ‘yes’ to both of those questions. Galliano’s sensibility was undeniably met with Margiela’s (fishnets, veils, jeweled masks, experimenting with hemlines/varying volumes). As a statement from the house (poetically) put it, “Piece by piece, deconstructing and constructing a new story for Margiela. A world deep in its past but with promises of the future.” The wording seems intentionally open-ended even vague perhaps to signify that there’s no clearly defined course here. The important takeaway is that our expectations were exceeded today. And that Galliano has left us wanting more.

John Galliano returned to fashion’s stage by pouring his bravado into the clothes — and not the set or his finale getup. The name over the door — now shortened to Maison Margiela, as founder Martin is long gone — gave Galliano an excuse to shed his flamboyance and not strut out dressed as an astronaut, pirate or Cossack. Instead, there was a blink-and-you-missed-it bow à la Miuccia Prada: the Gibraltar-born, British designer smiling in the house’s signature lab coat as Shirley Bassey belted “Big Spender.”

This came after a no-frills couture show in an all-white space in which Galliano married his penchant for romantic silhouettes and daring cutting with the Belgian house’s codes stretching from deconstruction to brushes of white paint. This two-part production had models first file out in one direction, and return wearing the toiles and experiments to realize this Artisanal collection, for which everything from bird figurines, scraps of fabric, toy soldiers and safety pins were repurposed.

The collection was bold, most exits densely detailed, save for a few simple evening columns, flaring bustier dresses and mannish tuxedo suits. It was a promising start, but fell short of the triumph so many were hoping for. Despite the hype and hyperbole that proceeded Galliano’s show at the tail end of London Collections: Men, everything about the production seemed designed to calm, from the spa-like music that washed over the two rows of chairs and spotlights that lined the narrow room, to the restrictions on hubbub.

There were only three photographers in the pit, including one in-house, and no paparazzi allowed inside to document the arrival of Kate Moss and her rock-star husband Jamie Hince, plus designers including Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz, Manolo Blahnik and Rifat Ozbek.

The 54-year-old Galliano chose London where he first catapulted onto the scene in 1984 with his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins for his first couture show since 2011, his last at Dior. American Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the designer’s longtime champion and a linchpin figure behind his three-week designer-in-residence role at Oscar de la Renta in 2013, clapped and laughed at the conclusion of the show, staged at a gleaming new office tower not far from Buckingham Palace.
“It was brilliant,” Wintour said after the show. “What I loved was the mix: There was so much that we know and we love about John, but then he took the Margiela vocabulary and translated it in such an appealing and innovative way. I loved seeing all the toiles at the end where you can see all the work and the new embroidery.”

In lieu of previews and to avoid the usual post-show melee, Margiela emailed show notes immediately following the show. They trumpeted “a process of discovery, returning to one’s roots: Piece by piece, deconstructing and constructing a new story for Margiela.”

It was clear Galliano had dialed down, but not abandoned, the retro-tinged glamour he plied over a 15-year tenure at Dior. The dramatic swags of fabrics and explosions of tulle were still there. Ditto the theatrical, drag-queen makeup: Crystals winking from lips, cheeks and kiss curls.
“It was so surreal this is the first show I have ever seen,” said Burberry's creative director David Bailey. “I do shows, but I don’t go to them. It was just extraordinary. I wanted to keep pressing the pause button, to study, look closer at, play with and enjoy the clothes. It was just what I had hoped for and more. “There was such a huge amount of storytelling and I love the way the clothes were constructed — like a work in progress,” Bailey added.
Renzo Rosso, whose group, OTB, controls Margiela via a subsidiary called Neuf, appointed Galliano to helm the house last October, giving a second chance to a controversial talent. Prized for his ultra-feminine, historically inspired designs, and a particular penchant for bias-cut gowns, Galliano was hardly an obvious choice for a house known for cleft-toed boots and all-white stores. Galliano’s arrival at the Paris-based label should re-ignite interest in Margiela, which had waned in recent years as a succession of hidden talents cycled in and out of the house. Management had put the development focus on its secondary line MM6 as buzz faded around its top lines.

The Maison Margiela Artisanal spring 2015 couture is also to be presented by appointment during Paris Couture Week, Jan. 25th to 31nd, 2015.