Two worlds collided in Paris on Friday when John Galliano showed his debut ready-to-wear collection for Maison Margiela. For those who love both of those names, that was quite something.
Let's start with the tropes that Martin Margiela himself was famed for before his retirement from the house he founded in 2009. Garments crafted in black lining silks were here cut into slouchy wide-legged pants and a lace-trimmed skirt. Men's tailoring fabrics – in this instance, a navy pinstripe – was transformed into deconstructed pieces: a jacket worn as a bustier top, its seams reversed, edges frayed and wadding exposed for all to see. Remember too the far from obviously fetching American tan body suits: there is something vaguely surgical about their appearance. Finally, M Margiela's signature 'tabi' shoes in Galliano's hands gave way to studiously awkward, deliberately ill-fitting two-tone Mary Janes. They were still far from conventional.
So far, so Maison Margiela. The spirit of the woman who walked this runway, however, was unmistakably invoked by John Galliano: a beautiful stranger, her hair was crammed into a latex swim cap, her make-up rainbow-coloured and quite possibly applied in the dark. She was delicate, slightly touched and dressed in narrow – and immaculately proportioned – tailored black jackets and trench coats, silk velvet tea dresses and gauzy black Twenties-line sheaths. And, in the end, it was her fragile and childlike nature that dominated. For all Galliano's modesty and evident respect for the name he now designs for, it was her extraordinary character that made this collection truly shine.