With his new Icons collection for Maison Margiela, John Galliano is launching an assemblage of house classics that he’s revisited with subtle codes—codes recognizable to a “gentleperson’s club” of aficionados. Showcased in a short film by acclaimed director Olivier Dahan debuting here, the new line will be available in ephemeral spaces within the brand’s flagships in Paris, London, Tokyo, and Shanghai through November and December. Hamish Bowles finds out more.

Hamish Bowles: Hi! So, tell me how Icons fits into the structure of Margiela and what it represents.

John Galliano: Hamish? Morning! Since coming here I felt one thing I had to do was increase awareness with our community on brand identity as opposed to branding. In the video, there’s a waterfall of images that offers a close-up of bastings, stitches, décortiqué under-collars. They’re things that we worked through in past collections but distilled in a very kind of minimal, discreet way. [It’s] almost like a gentlemen’s, or let’s say a gentleperson’s, club where you reveal when you flip up your collar that you are part of the club, or you reach out for a glass of water and you reveal the shadow play of a tab on your trench. I would say they are clothes which have some permanence in this world that hungers for such fast turnaround and newness. They are based on volumes and structures that have had some kind of commercial success; rather than just let them go, I like the idea of building the collection around key pieces, if you like, but close to permanence. You saw for the first time ever a bias-cut suit, artisanally industrialized. It took me five years to do that.

Really? That must be so difficult.

Yeah, [it was] a lot of work with the staff, backwards and forwards until we just kind of got to the point now where I felt… I think we can produce this now. I felt confident that I could do it to the standard of our bias-cut dresses… I almost see these things as generational hand-me-downs. You know, Amanda [Harlech] would go to Charvet or Daphne [Guinness] would go to Charvet for their white shirts. Nick Knight would go to Church’s for his loafers. We go back to certain outlets because we love the volume, we love how it feels, we can rely on it. And all that adds up to brand identity and that’s why we go back to the store.

It’s a collection constantly in the stores where I have a bit more time to spend on the actual cut and we allow ourselves to use even higher quality fabrics. And of course the inners and the construction of the technicalities of cut are included in this. So it’s a slightly more expensive collection. But it is, as I said, more permanent. And what I will do, as other things come through the Artisanal or the Co-Ed, I will drip feed them into the Icons collection. It also serves as a really nice collection to drop in just beautiful eveningwear or a three-button or a two-button or a one-button suit, which sometimes one feels slightly forced to include in a Co-Ed collection which is more fashion forward, or an Artisanal where it’s not what it’s about. So these items have found a really nice place to sit where one can build on. Does all that make sense?

It’s interesting that everything now looks so classic, but of course it’s all these sort of nuances of what you do, little subversive interventions. So something that looks like a slightly overscale topcoat, it’s actually that your arm comes out from the opening under the arms and the sleeves hang loose.

Yeah, what you’re talking about is what we call a Kenji cape. That I just felt was something that you would subtly recognize from across the road. I don’t know if I used the right words there, but it’s not in your face like a branded gold button or something like that. It’s just as a sly wink and a half-closed eye, you’ll recognize the shape and that kind of construction is from Maison Margiela. You kind of recognize it in a subtle way. For a discerning buyer who appreciates clothes with more permanence.

It’s very seductive, this idea of seeing things that are familiar in one way, and then as you get closer they’re all these little subtle details.

We have VIP dressing rooms in the back of the Bruton Street store [in London] and I’ve advised that this collection should just hang there so when madame or monsieur or just whoever is trying things on and checking themselves out in the mirror they will be in that slightly more elevated ambience. I think that collection should just sit there. Eventually, the idea that I would love is you can mix it. You can wear it with a Co-Ed piece, and it will work because of the classicism that we do.