John Galliano, and the impact of a career renaissance



In 1990, when The MBS Group was still in its infancy, I received a call from a woman who wanted to replace herself as sales director for a young British designer named John Galliano. His company was based above a petrol station on the New King’s Road, where John both lived and worked. The atmosphere in the building was crazy, vibrant and dynamic, and it was an extremely exciting assignment. John was MBS’s very first fashion client, and very proud of it we were too! Incidentally, the successful candidate MBS placed was Maria Lemos, who now has the most fabulous store on Chiltern Street, a few stores down from the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone. It just goes to show that people can always pop up in places you never expected them to…

John Galliano
John Galliano

The trajectory of John’s career is well documented. After starting out with his own label (Brown’s bought his entire degree show), John joined LVMH as creative director at Givenchy before being given the jewel in the group’s crown, Christian Dior. He resided at Dior from 1996 until 2011, before his very public downfall, following which he was shunned by the fashion establishment. In the last 12 months or so his comeback has started to take shape. There was an honest and in-depth piece on him in Vanity Fair , he has collaborated with Oscar de la Renta, and he has become creative director of the Russian fragrance company L’Etoile.

This week the rumour that he was taking over as creative director at Maison Martin Margiela was confirmed, which should seal his return to the industry. Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel and owner of a stable of brands under the Only the Brave banner (which now controls Margiela), has never been afraid of pushing creative boundaries and has always surrounded himself with bright, creative mavericks. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he has now brought John on board.

John’s design genius and talent will be channeled through a brand which has always been very understated and avant-garde. It is well known that Martin Margiela never courted publicity, despite his success. He is from the famed Belgian stable of designers who graduated from Antwerp, including Anne Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten, and today boasts a turnover of €100m. John has always been a showman, and he thrived in flamboyant, sexy, feminine European houses where his shows were always theatrical and glamorous. So, it will be extremely interesting to observe what he does with Margiela.

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John Galliano for Christian Dior

John’s next step could well take his career in a different direction. Another possibility is that he could mould Margiela in his own image, taking it on a new path. One career ‘renaissance’ that panned out like this was, of course, that of Steve Jobs. Having first left Apple in 1983, he came back in 1997 to a struggling business. His single-minded genius led to the invention of the iPod, iPhone and other products that have changed the way technology is viewed today, engineering Apple’s comeback as a true innovator. When individuals like Jobs are enticed to come back to a company, it is invariably a sign that that business has forgotten what formerly made it great. This is similar to John’s situation in that since Martin Margiela left the brand has lost its edge slightly – it is in need of an injection of creativity.

Everyone at MBS wishes John the best of luck in his new role with Maison Martin Margiela. Can you think of any other individuals that have experienced a similar renaissance in their careers? Please let me know at moira@thembsgroup.co.uk, and have a wonderful weekend.