Somehow it feels appropriate that John Galliano showed his first ready-to-wear collection for Maison Margiela — a paean, as it was, to faded, demented, schizoid glamour — nearly to the day that Albert Maysles, maker of the cult film Grey Gardens, passed away. You could almost hear Little Edie merrily murmuring something about nothing while wrapping and re-wrapping a scarf around her head.
Galliano’s tribute to that particular delusional dame was spring 2008, and it lives in infamy. Here, “an ephemeral muse returns,” said the show notes, unnamed but blissfully unawares nonetheless. Galliano appears to have envisioned the different stages of her life, from bright young flapper, so confident and svelte in her lace and ribbons, to hunchbacked hag, clutching her sad bag — fashioned after a brown paper sack — and squinting into the distance. Elsewhere we saw a rocker chick, a 60s student, and a leopard-clad cougar. All of them, at some point, had clearly chucked caution to the wind in a frenetic moment of velvety, fur-shod abandon.
It’s no secret that Galliano loves paying homage to the great eccentrics of history, the strongest personalities. It’s a method that is somewhat at odds with the reclusive Margiela ethos of anonymity. It’ll be interesting to see how the schism plays out, whether common ground can be found of Galliano will cast that pesky ethos aside. As it was, in this collection, there was very little of Margiela’s codes on display.