A few days ago I ventured to London (once again) with my Vogue Festival ticket in hand to go and hear the 'Master of Couture', John Galliano, in conversation with British Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Alexandra Shulman. The Vogue Festival is an annual event that I have seen advertised in Vogue magazine ever since I grabbed my first copy of Vogue (I haven't let go since). The Vogue Festival allows Vogue readers and fashion and beauty enthusiasts to attend events along with some of fashion's most elite crowd. This year, after one too many years of pining over the event and never getting organised enough to arrange travel and book tickets, I finally marked the date in my diary after booking tickets to this year's Vogue Festival. After reading through the possible talks that I could attend, I knew that there was one talk I simply couldn't miss - 'John Galliano Master of Couture'. So with the money paid, tickets printed and a full tank of petrol at the ready, I jumped into my trusty little car and gallivanted off to the big city of London.
After three hours of travel, I was more than ready to stretch my legs and never sit down again. I was afraid that I had already been moulded into a sitting position that was irreversible after my static journey. However, after visiting the temptations of the Vogue shop, it was time to sit down once more, but this time I couldn't wait - I was going to be sitting in front of Galliano, not the dull, grey roads of Britain.
After finding my place and gawping at three of Galliano's recent Margiela designs placed on the empty stage, Alexandra Shulman walked on stage and welcomed Galliano. The room went silent, everyone's breath was held in anticipation and on walked Galliano, followed by an eruption of applause, cheers and marks of respect. Humble and receptive, Galliano sat down - all eyes were on the 'Master'.
The next hour felt like sixty seconds rather than sixty minutes. Lulled into a trance, Galliano's intelligent, artistic and creative mind expelled into the room. Transferring words of wisdom, worth and inspiration, I frantically tried to write down everything the 'Master' said (note: this was incredibly difficult and paraphrasing was a neccesity). What was most incredible about the conversation between Shulman and Galliano was the connection between the pair. Shulman explored the mind of Galliano with questions that delighted every audience member, as with each answer, Galliano would invite each worshipper into his inner thoughts.
Central Saint Martins and advice for students
The conversation topics ranged from the 80's, the 'incredibly creative era' and partying, to designing wedding dresses for Kate Moss. But, starting from Galliano's beginnings, Alexandra Shulman asked the designer about his time at infamous Central Saint Martins. Astoundingly, Galliano confessed that he wasn't particularly interested in fashion until Central Saint Martins - 'It met all expectations and more'. Galliano's talent was noticed immediately and after showing his first collection 'Les Incroyables' in 1984, he was soon after dealing with his first client, Diana Ross. Giving advice to students, he said it is 'important to use time to learn as much as you can and to enjoy the creative process'. On his personal experience in dealing with students and their placements at Maison Margiela, he encourages people to get involved with the whole process. At Margiela, he said that he involves his students in every aspect - 'it's not just about making tea', although confessing it is about that as well. Cultural exposure was also important to Galliano, encouraging students to be generally open - visit an exhibition, a flea market, the theatre and read. I'm sure I wasn't alone when I was taking notes - his words were like Gospel.
Known for redefining the idea of fashion shows, Galliano views shows as spectacles. When Shulman questioned whether all this drama was necessary, Galliano retorted, 'A little bit of theatre goes a long way', it sets a 'perfect backdrop for the girls I'm working with'. Galliano explained that he loved giving narrative and a story for the models to understand what they are wearing. With a character the models had a sense of direction which brought the clothes to life as the models invested in their new personas. Describing himself as working in 'quite an organic way', Galliano emphasised the importance of 'working with a narrative and a muse'. In order to design, he enjoys 'draping on the body and working with a girl'. Highlighting the importance of having 'the fabric in your hand' and needing to 'get into it and feel'. In relation to creative inspiration, Galliano said that working with different types of music helps to inspire and stimulate his creativity depending on his mood.
Identifying with Maison Margiela and inspiration..
In the spotlight most recently for his work within Maison Margiela, Galliano talked about his new role within the famous house. The importance for Galliano was trying to understand the work of Martin and get inspiration from him when designing the new collections. He wanted to know what it felt like to wear Margiela today. Joining Shulman and Galliano on stage were select pieces of Galliano's recent designs for Maison Margiela. When discussing the piece above, Galliano astonished the audience by casually revealing that the bottom structure of the dress was in fact 'a man's coat'. Inspired by Martin, Galliano had taken a coat and reconstructed its formation to create the bottom structure of his incredibly complex design. Taking further inspiration from costume jewellery, Galliano had created Margiela pieces that exist 'really like a sculpture'. When discussing his other designs for the collection, Galliano talked about the use of sea shells and his admiration for their beauty, contrasting with the 'grotesque faces' that he constructed out of them. He wanted to give the costume jewellery and sea shells that he had collected 'another life' and obliterate any sense of what they came from. This was the kind of embroidery, Galliano explained, that Margiela himself would have done.
Primarily using red, white and black colours for all the designs, Shulman questioned why these colours had been selected (red being the 'most dangerous colour'). With limited time available, Galliano wanted to re-evaluate colour and how he wanted to use it. He explained that he used the red as a ray of life, 'a shaft of light', agreeing that the red was dominant but used more as a light. Galliano also expressed his love for the 'Maison Margiela' building, 'I love exploring original DNA'. The building used to be a convent; now converted into an industrial design school, Galliano loves being there getting phone calls to remind him to leave. 'What appears as white wash' and 'peeling of paint' is 'layers of emotion', described Galliano. Comparatively explaining that Martin's designs, although they appeared minimal, also had lots of emotion. After learning from his previous mistakes, John Galliano said that the importance of his new position within Margiela was not to 'become a slave of the house', while still respecting the DNA and its existing platforms. For example, although Margiela didn't do dresses, Galliano designed dresses for his first collection with the house because he knows that they will sell and this element of business is very important.
Taking on the 'invisible man'..
Known for being the 'invisible man', Shulman questioned Galliano on whether he was going to take on this form of 'Margiela' persona. Galliano replied with the goal of focusing the spotlight on the clothes and said that although an interesting concept, he takes it 'day by day'. He makes appearances to thank people for seeing the show, not to encourage the spotlight onto himself.
Galliano on Haute Couture..
Galliano views Haute Couture as an essential and not something that will ever need resurrecting due to economy. He describes this exclusive sector of fashion as informing other lines of the industry. It provides creativity which is needed to move forward and without it we would not have the inspiration for other lines of fashion.
Designing Kate Moss' Wedding Dress...
Jokingly, Galliano laughed about how he couldn't imagine another bride who would ask someone who had just come out of rehab to design their wedding dress. It was the 'most magical experience to work with Kate'. They created about twenty different dresses, enabling Galliano to reconnect to emotions. The results were incredible, as the nation gasped at Kate's fairytale dress (see above), designed by her good friend and remarkable designer, John Galliano - 'Kate is amazing' and an 'amazing friend'.
Of course, this is only a summary of the conversation between Alexandra Shulman and Galliano at the Vogue Festival. I unfortunately couldn't type fast enough on my iPhone to record the whole conversation, which is exactly why my favourite bits were recorded and transferred into this blog post. One thing that Galliano said was how he has learnt to say no and how it was a sign of strength to only take on what you can do really well. This was one of my favourite pieces of advice that Galliano gave in his talk because I can personally relate to it, as I'm sure most people can. However, in a world where hard work and dedication are necessary to success, pushing yourself beyond your limits is never a healthy or rewarding choice. Galliano captured the attention of every audience member with his intellectually stimulating conversation with Shulman, answering honestly and inspiring everyone with his words. Thank you Galliano and thank you Vogue for a fabulous festival.