John Galliano F/W 2018: melancholy in America

Here I am in Hotel le Marois again. The last guests are searching inactively for their seats, wandering with invitations in hands, because, actually, there’s no need to find one’s place and sit down too soon – fashion weeks are splendid spectacles, not only because of the clothes, but locations as well. How beautiful is this? How beautiful is that? Everyone is taking pictures for their Insta-stories and feeds. I cannot really blame them.

John Galliano is a powerful name. Bill Gaytten, the creative director, must really feel its weight on its shoulders. Nevertheless, the vision he develops every season is distinct and reassuring. It’s a sweet combination of girlish elements, delicacy of materials and colors, smartly mixed with a dash of tomboy. Will you dare? Every ensemble he puts on the runway is a tongue-in-cheek take on modern design obsessions, only expressed in a more discreet way. This time wasn’t an exception. The newest collection revolves around an imaginary encounter, which takes place in Midwest America, shaken by the ruthless Depression. Prospects of the future are clouded; one can imagine the bleakness of empty towns, uncomfortable silence, sadness, floating in the air. There was something unique about melancholy which was conveyed. It had nothing to do with the usual and romanticized French connotations of this particular feeling. Bill Gaytten imagined the arrival of a traveling circus, which uplifts the spirits, even for a short moment; for a brief instant, a burlesque star seduces an ordinary American man, lost in his daily life and surroundings. The whole collection is a testament to the magic of such extraordinary and magical encounters.

The collection is conceived on two levels: it combines essential sartorial matters, such as denim, with dazzling show-worthy elements (embroidered tulle, organza, body-skimming slip dresses, sequined bras, shining accessories). Incongruous combinations and the constant va-et-vient between these two dimensions is evident in seemingly random styling. The idea of mixing and matching is nothing new, but the real challenge is showing smart and effective ways to do it. While Gaytten’s options may not be for everybody (and would he be a talented designer if it was the case?), they most certainly are a gentle whisper in an ear on how to look original without jumping to extremes.

Return of the Galliano Gazette, the legendary newspaper print, could have been predicted from a show invitation. It is used for clothes and accessories alike. Revisiting the brand’s heritage seemed like an appropriate decision and it fit perfectly with the collection’s theme. Gaytten’s take on one of the biggest current trends (extremely small or oversized bags) is also authentic – while iterations signed by other fashion brands are more similar to huge shopping bags, Bill Gaytten suggests a doctor-bag shape with strong vintage references. Elements of boudoir and erotica are also there, especially in the play of sheer materials, which are compensated with coats or blazers. The color scheme exudes warmth and the spirit of old times, like sepia-toned photos from an exquisite album (or stylish postcards…)

“Looking back to the past with hindsight, we arrive at new ideas of beauty”, Bill Gaytten wrote in show notes. “But the world would be boring if inspiration only came from classically beautiful things. The notion of romance in adversity captivated me”. How well put.

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