Galliano never left

Genius can’t come back, because it never really leaves.
John Galliano for Christian Dior. Embroidered dress in silk faille. Photo: Shutterstock

The first article I ever wrote for The Times of Malta almost 12 years ago was about John Galliano. Entitled ‘Can Galliano come back?’ The article spoke about what, at the time, was a recent scandal. The former head honcho designer at Dior had gone to dinner, gotten very, very drunk and thrown around several antisemitic slurs, which effectively ended his 15-year stint at the renowned brand.

I remember feeling a lot of inner conflict at the time this happened. On the one hand, Galliano was indisputably the best thing that had happened to Dior and the fashion world since Monsieur Dior himself.

However, I also understood that a haute couture house could hardly have a representative who had become so entrenched in the brand’s DNA spewing hate speech in his spare time. The debates about whether or not designers, models, and influencers should also be expected to be bastions of morality came much later on.

And so, Galliano was dropped, and with that came what I can only kindly describe as Dior’s ongoing wilderness years. I won’t bore you, as I’ve been bored for the last 12 years, but to say that none of the designers that came after him did the label justice is to say that rice is white, and the sky is blue.

Thankfully for actual talent devotees like me, Galliano was quietly taken in by Maison Margiela in 2014 and has been making magic ever since. For years, I have watched him gradually rebuilding himself as many of the houses I once loved became steadily duller and more unimaginative, and then, on January 25, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, he reminded the world that there is couture, and then there is Galliano Couture.

Like something out of a Victorian fever dream married with a half-forgotten film you fell in love with before your heart got broken, the models spilt out onto the foggy runway. It was impossible not to fall under the spell of these beautiful, almost Frankensteinesque creatures encased in lace and corsetry with their exaggerated hips and buttocks and round, round breasts as inviting as pomegranates. Like broken butterflies, their coy, glazed faces remained fixed as they spread out their arms to show the full extent of the artistry of their maker.

The structured jackets gave away the decade and a half Galliano had spent at Dior, but the silhouettes were all him. It was almost as if he had cut out a piece of his mind, smacked it onto a projector and invited us all in to see it. It wasn’t just a triumph of a collection; it was a magnum opus of stratospheric proportions.

It’s taken me 12 years and what feels like a lifetime to answer my own question, but no, Galliano can’t come back; the truth is genius like that never leaves.

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