Q & A with John Galliano, who is launching a new men’s clothing line

Economic downturn be damned. Some notable new activity is planned for the men’s 2010-11 European runway shows, scheduled to start this weekend in Milan, Italy. Although some labels -- such as Yohji Yamamoto, Missoni and Moschino -- are scaling back their presentations, others are returning to the formal runways.

Alexander McQueen, who opted off the runway and served up his men’s collection last season in a short film/presentation format, is headed back to the Milan catwalk. The designer, who continually fills his runways as much with social commentary as with clothes, has us eager to see what’s up his sleeve this time.

Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf, who have traditionally staged theatrical runway shows on the women’s side but presented their menswear on an appointment-only basis, are bringing menswear to the runway this season. And the Yves Saint Laurent men’s collection, which had abdicated the runway for several seasons in favor of small-format presentations and short films that never seemed to be a good fit for the label, will also be returning to the more familiar runway show.

A new secondary men’s line from John Galliano, called simply Galliano, is set to debut Monday in Milan. The Paris runway shows for his original John Galliano line are traditionally among the high points of the season.

Described as a travel-inspired line targeting “trend-setting, extravagant, adventurous” 18- to- 35-year-olds, the comparatively lower-priced collection will consist of 250 pieces at launch. It includes T-shirts (from $90 to $160 retail), jeans ($225 to $550), woven shirts ($195 to $450), jackets ($350 to $750) and leather pieces ($750 to $1,200). Distribution is expected to mirror that of Galliano’s secondary women’s line, which launched for spring 2007 and is carried in high-end department stores including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.

Line representatives declined to share sales expectations or provide figures for the Galliano business, but in August, John Galliano Chief Executive Pierre Denis told fashion trade paper WWD that the women’s brand extension was a “substantial business” that “exceeded expectations.” (It’s apparently been performing well enough abroad to warrant the opening of shop-in-shops inside department stores including Harrods in London, Printemps in Paris and Isetan in Japan in addition to a free-standing Galliano boutique in Tokyo.)

The new Galliano men’s line is being produced under license by Ittierre SpA (the Milan-based licensee for the Just Cavalli, C’N’C Costume National, Ermanno Scervino and Galliano women’s labels). But in an e-mail question-and-answer interview last week, the busy designer -- who in addition to overseeing his own lines is creative director of Christian Dior -- said he is “involved with everything” and will serve as the creative director of the new line.

Will the inspiration and themes of the John Galliano men’s collection be reflected in the same season’s Galliano diffusion line?

The second lines are not afterthoughts; they are collections in their own right. Just like children, as the Galliano family grows, each collection develops its own theme, own way of seeing and signature. The second line for men’s will feature the leather and key denim pieces by Galliano and will enhance the main line rather than compete with it.

Will some of the iconic imagery associated with the John Galliano line, the newsprint pattern, for example, carry over to the diffusion line?

The Galliano Gazette and other signatures of the Galliano DNA will be used to pepper the new second line and help it to develop its own Galliano style.

Is the design team the same for both the women’s and the men’s diffusion lines?

I have a core design team who work with me on designs for both [the] main line and second line; we work on men’s [and] women’s in the same studio. What is important is that I am involved with everything to ensure the Galliano handwriting retains its design standard and message.

Is the “travel inspiration” cited for the fall/winter 2010 debut collection an influence that will carry over into future seasons?

Travel is something that I find constantly inspiring and [that] influences me. I love each season to immerse myself in a new culture and new way of seeing. Travel is a great springboard to enable this and it will inspire my thoughts and designs -- some seasons more than others. . . . For me, traveling is the best way to create and start a new canvas to create on; it is the perfect way to dive into a new season.

Men’s fashion week in Milan runs through Tuesday. The Paris men’s shows follow Thursday through next Sunday. Show coverage will be posted daily at the Image section’s All the Rage blog.