Margiela presents its menswear in Paris today / PATRICK KOVARIK/ AFP/Getty

It feels like an opportunity missed for Galliano to refine his vision for Margiela through menswear, an increasingly important market

Maison Margiela showed its latest menswear collection in the Salle Wagram, a Belle Époque Parisian salle de spectacle that has recently been completely gutted – renovated for the 21st century while still keeping its history. It served as a timely reminder of what designers are expected to do when brought into existing labels – keep the soul, but make it relevant for today.

The reminder was timely because the latest Margiela collection was the first presented since John Galliano was recruited to head the house. The man himself made no appearance chez Wagram. His attention over the past few months, we were told, was focused on the haute couture collection presented last Monday in London.

However, Galliano’s absence behind the scenes led to a dichotomy. He is the creative director of the whole Margiela label and, following that London show, which darted between Galliano and Margiela in a valiant attempt to weave two aesthetics together, it was jarring to see this collection, mired as it was in Margiela’s menswear past.

That menswear has been, by and large, nondescript, echoing the Seventies and with a few touches of the artisanal. This time, canvasses splodged with paint were sewn into boxy coats and waistcoats, tinselly lurex bodged into bombers, the rest Margiela’s bog-standard retro redux. It seems churlish to chide this collection for what it could have been, nevertheless it feels like an opportunity missed for Galliano to refine his vision for Margiela through menswear, an increasingly important market.

It makes up a great swathe of Givenchy’s business – and considering the creative director Riccardo Tisci only began designing menswear in 2008, following fiftysomething years of pure womenswear at the house, it’s a model success story of revitalisation. Because despite those fiftysomething years, Givenchy’s identity was blurry: a roster of designers have stabbed at defining it since the founder’s retirement 20 years ago. Most have stabbed in the dark.

Tisci, however, has nailed it. Givenchy today has eschewed the primly dressed Audrey Hepburn in favour of embodiments of swaggering Latino machismo, clad in jumped-up sportswear, pattern on pattern and sharp contrasts of cardinal scarlet, black and white. The print this time came from Persian carpets. It was winter, so there was some pinstriped tailoring with a few knitted skirts and fur coats slung over the top.

All that Catholicism, all that print, has nothing to do with Givenchy, and everything to do with Tisci. That’s why it works for the label’s recently acquired legion of rabid followers.