What characterises innovation in fashion anyway? Seemingly, it is an industry bereft of original design, relying on the successes of the past to light the way for the future. Remixing it is known as.
John Galliano, creative director of Maison Margiela, having presented his first menswear collection for the house the week previous, presented the brand’s Artisanal line to couture clients and press at Paris Fashion Week’s couture stint last week.
It was a week rocked by controversy: light was shed on Russian entrepreneur Miroslava Duma’s past transphobia and homophobia; her dissemination of racism on Instagram made headlines, sharing a letter from her friend Ulyana Sergeenko. As Vanessa Friedman wrote for the New York Times, the women had “metaphorically” faded from the front row.
Couture week is about escapism and undoubtedly Mr. Galliano provided that. The show took place at the company’s headquarters on Rue Saint-Maur in the 11th. The venue was painted black, from ceiling to floor and UV lighting filled the room with blue light. The attendees were invited to use flash photography for optimal viewing. Once the Instagram Stories arrived, it was clear the clothing was reflective. The iridescent fabrics created beautiful colours, like light shining on an oily surface. The clothes were exciting—not just the setting (Jessie Reaves provided the site-specific backdrop consisting of raw, deconstructed furniture). The technicality of the prismatic clothing is a testament to the direction couture should be taking—one which prides itself on innovation, to present the customer, who is already paying hundreds of thousands, with something new and inventive.
What’s more is the social commentary imbued in the show. Gone are the days of shows that appeared in newspapers and shopfronts six months after their presentation. Secret shows like Tom Ford’s Spring 2011 outing with Beyonce and Lauren Hutton as models don’t happen anymore. Shows exist for Instagram now and Mr. Galliano is certainly aware of that. These clothes, like men and women today, have multiple personalities. There is the reality and the online presence. The clothes stood for that. On first glance, you could be staring at a deconstructed macintosh-denim jacket but upon examining your photograph you were confronted with an eye-watering metallic rainbow. It wonderfully deconstructed perception.
Deconstruction is a cornerstone to the Margiela brand and Mr. Galliano has paid his utmost respect to it, honouring the founder Mr. Martin Margiela and his contribution to fashion history. He once again looked at an idea of decortiqué, which translates to “dissected” or “hulled”. Jackets were dismantled and pieced together again, skirts were hollowed, bodice lining was visible.
His honouring of the house codes doesn’t necessarily mean he was blind to his own design handwriting. Elements of his affinity for Chinoiserie bubbled at the surface. Models carried parasols, dresses were overtly decorative and proposed the upcoming Oscar nominees with options aplenty. His penchant for infusing low-culture was also noted with ‘ugly’ trainers accompanying every look, instead of the traditional heel or sandal. It was a provocative choice for a haute couture collection but perhaps reflective of the kind of customer who would buy a look—or an iteration of one—from this catwalk.