Watching the John Galliano show yesterday, a few days after Maison Martin Margiela’s, was interesting on many levels but mainly on how can a designer move a brand forward without having its founder around. Martin Margiela and John Galliano, the men, are polar opposites (granted, having never seen a picture of Mr Margiela or read an interview with him this is a guess but I'll go ahead and risk my life supporting the above statement). Their impact on fashion however is of comparable weight. Simply put, do you follow the codes established by said founder to a t or do you burn the book and do you own thing? Bill Gaytten tried the latter with Dior and, let's not mince our words here, failed. How is he faring at Galliano?
At Galliano he may not have to face such unbearable expectations but this was always John’s baby, his personal love letter to fashion and in a way, that's harder to follow as the 'new man'. And yet, he can't, and shouldn't, just do rendition after rendition of Galliano classics to satisfy the fans. With his latest collection Gaytten showed that he's prepared to put away the codebook (for now). And judged on its own merit, it worked!
It was a light, poetic show and it deserved a better venue than the rough riverside location it got. Gaytten played with volume and the billowing dresses and skirts with gathered hems and triangle cut-outs at the back were beautifully constructed. They were part Edwardian part Japanese, with kimono sleeves and sharp folds. The colour palette of pale lilac and powder blue showed a delicate touch. A black dress looked as if it was draped on the body and secured in place with a ribbon. A wrap top over supersize shorts had a bare back, just tied so in a knot. Yet the prints, one of a flying man, another of cars piled up in traffic, did not quite fit in - they felt too urban for this collection, like the venue itself. The Stephen Jones mille-feuille hats were a nod to the past. It was a small step forward for Gaytten and an even bigger one for those in the audience not quite ready to forgo memories of Galliano shows past. You can't stay stuck in the past, and Gaytten knows that.