Strangest Bedfellows: John Galliano Joins Maison Martin Margiela

After weeks of speculation, followed by denials and still more speculation, the most dramatic and flamboyant of designers has joined the most reclusive and anonymous of labels. Announced today, John Galliano has been named creative director of Maison Martin Margiela.

And yet the placement is among the more logical for Galliano since his ouster from Dior and his namesake label after those public displays of affliction some years ago. He was never going to be brought back by Dior or hired by any other LVMH brand. Despite recent overtures to LVMH chief Bernard Arnault, nor could he rejoin his own company — it seems LVMH would rather see it stagnate than returned to Galliano’s hands. That other great French conglomerate, Kering (formerly PPR), seems just as unwilling to take the risk. Starting a line from scratch would require an enormous amount of good will from the public, and that’s just not in plentiful supply at the moment.

So that gives an outlier the opportunity to buy into Galliano’s remaining cachet. And that’s exactly what happened with the news that Margiela’s parent company, Only the Brave, and its president Renzo Rosso had appointed Galliano as MMM’s creative director, a stark turnaround for the Belgian label known for its strict adherence to anonymity and unattributed works. But the Belgian label is managed by Italians (in addition to Margiela, Only the Brave controls Diesel, Viktor & Rolf, and Marni), and it’s always been more likely that an Italian or American group would invest in Galliano’s comeback. As that residency at Oscar de la Renta didn’t lead to a permanent position (presumably due to staffing differences), that left Rosso wide open. 

Margiela had already been moving in a more commercial direction of late. The goal seems to be more reaching that holy grail, Hollywood, and its lucrative red carpet, an area Galliano knows well as Dior’s couturier for 15 years. While details on the deal are still scant, it’s expected he’ll take charge of all of Margiela’s various lines — men’s, women’s, couture (called Artisanal by the label) — starting with couture in January. Awards season may be awash in Margiela gowns by Galliano.

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