British designer John Galliano and Belgian designer Martin Margiela are as different in style and personality as tweed and taffeta. Galliano is a flamboyant fashion plate himself, soaking up the footlights on his runways by appearing at the end of each show in a different get-up (yesterday he was the quintessential Englishman in his tails and boxers). Margiela, on the other hand, shuns any kind of personal attention, refusing to be photographed for the press and never showing his face at the end of his shows. (A quick front row poll at his show yesterday revealed that several journalists who had been covering the designer for at least a decade had no idea what he looked like).
But the two designers do share at least one characteristic: they are both what the French would call "betes de la mode." Literally translated that means fashion monsters, more loosely it means they are both intensely passionate about fashion. In both cases, that passion translates into an incredible skill for tailoring and cutting as well as an infallible ability to stay ahead of the trends. It's interesting to note that both designers burst onto the Paris fashion scene as outsiders bad boys willing to shake things up. Today, nearly 20 years later, they are both leaders in their very different worlds: Galliano heading up what is arguably the most established of French luxury goods houses and Margiela widely considered the leader of fashion's avant-garde.
But even these two bad boys or monsters of fashion are toning it down this season, sending out a message that clearly strips away the hype and froth of fashion's recent past. Their subdued looks might just be the harbiner of a new kind of minimalism. For Galliano that means revisiting the strict tailoring of the 1930s and 1940s by day, with sharp shoulders on jackets and trench coats. His models wore beautiful makeup, as glamorous as ever, yet somehow discreet, like an old photo of Garbo or Dietrich slinking down the Avenue Montaigne, far from fashion's hungry spotlight. Margiela's models, on the other hand, appeared seemingly stripped of all glamour, in flesh-colored body stockings and long jackets with linebacker shoulders. Their blacked-out sunglasses made them look like bodicons from Blade Runner. The designer seemed to be making a statement about the ubiquity and uniformity of fashion today, especially on the red carpet. Both designers are turning a page, reaching for something classic and lasting in fashion however outrageous that notion may be.
Next Looking East, Again