Maison Margiela

Couture FW 2020

Photos by Rob Rusling / Courtesy of Maison Margiela

When Fashion Becomes Art

Seeing Through The Veil of Maison Margiela

Through the sound of dialing, the shared screen of video calls, email exchange between staff members, surveillance footage, Maison Margiela introduces us to the life of the creative team for their “Artisanal AW 2020 collection” with a 50-minute documentary led by their creative director John Galliano. Entitled “S.W.A.L.K” Galliano and his team make way to turn his reverie into reality! But as we follow along, we realize all the different tabs on the screen of Google research, reference images, and dialogues are really what Galliano’s brain looks like. There’s a melting pot of ideas in there, and making this collection is like developing a thesis of inspiration, the mindset of hand-me-downs, and recycling of the Maison’s principles. Still, this co-ed collection should be seen as genderless.

Galliano takes his team step by step to what he wants the garments to look like by going back to his past collection of 1986, the Fallen Angels emphasizing on the “wet look” of the clothes, the movement of impeccable draping on marble sculptures, and Isadora Duncan’s agility on any dance floor. He has a specific vision for everything, and he’s able to translate them perfectly with the help of paintings, poetry, stories, and short movies. When it comes to make-up, Galliano shares with Pat McGrath images of his 80s nightclub days in London, the Blitz Kids, Boy George, Steve Strange, and Princess Julia. The fragility and strength of the marble’s shapes are the moving force behind it all, and what fuels Galliano to create a “modern couture” collection has he calls it. Through the lens of Nick Knight, the director, they made a thriller full of pure mystery and eroticism! There’s no “poetry without death,” and that’s precisely what we see, as the model is trapped inside a black light room with heavy smoke, wearing nothing but a white-draped chiffon dress, her face covered by the same material with a knot in the back.

There is precision and a method to the madness as we’re taken through the different stages of production: from pattern cutting and fitting on Galliano’s muses. It’s the “highest form of dressmaking, just like slow cooking,” describes the designer. A blessing and disguise happen when a glitch from the computer creates two images on top of each other, giving the impression of an X-Ray. And just like that, the magic began! As suggested by Nick Knight, all the looks have names and are photographed on a dark background, making all the smallest details visible. Deconstruction and putting things back together is another key element of the collection, such as the inside seams of jackets and stitches stand out. The “Theia” passage no2 look is an open high-collar jacket, with dropped shoulders, cutouts on the sleeves with visible silk lining, paired with transparent stockings with draping inside, achieving the illusion of X-Ray, as it looked like the model’s bones; all styled with gladiator chiffon socks and black leather cowboy boots. Despite the simplicity of the earthy colors of the clothes, they come alive because of the different colorful accessories, like the yellow net veil beret, the Stephen Jones-style fascinator, and the purple bell-boy hat. The different textures seen throughout gave the energetic mood.

Margiela is known for as they made their famous ballet shoes in herringbone and others in brick suede and leather straps, and the Roman gladiator sandals are a blend of chiffon and leather.
Looking at the collection is like having a modern-day version of all these sculptures, as the models looked like walking pieces of art. Drama is felt in both the video and photographs, especially with the “Hyperion” passage no6 look, a navy blue cutout coat comprising of different layers, held together by circle buttons, paired with a round hat holding the models face with a string while being covered by a chiffon veil. Seduced by the unknown and balance of hard and soft is what we get with the “Eirene” look, a long white transparent dress with just enough draping at the bottom paired with an oversized navy blue coat with a circle pattern. As Galliano states in the documentary, it takes a community to create this level of detail and element of surprise in the clothes, and this Artisanal collection is a “love letter to the atelier”. Deconstruction and sustainability are the heartbeats of the house, and this collection is proof.

By Anne-Isabelle Saint-Pierre