By Catriona Mcgovern |
Beneath the Pont Alexandre III bridge, nestled within the depths of Paris, during the inaugural full moon of the year, John Galliano eclipsed this concluding fashion week. Numerous critics noted that the collection evoked a persistent sense of déjà vu, the theatricality reminiscent of Galliano’s early works, notably for Dior circa early 2000s.The collection is centred on the idea of delving into our inner selves, rooted in our consciousness- a technical and philosophical examination of presence and sentient.
Drawing inspiration from artworks of Dutch-French fauvist painter, Kees van Dongen, a
character study of the self- unfolded.
In the Artisanal Collection, the body serves as a canvas, expressing its’ inner essence through outward appearance. This portrayal captures the rituals and life experiences that create our unique identity conveyed through clothing. Dressing becomes a mirror reflecting one’s self-expression.
Transcending the constraints of time, Galliano and van Dongen could be considered as kindred
spirits. Both artists exude an avant-garde allure and a sense of mystique. Van Dongen’s female
portraits, adorned with vibrant colour palettes, depict bodies bathed in blue and skies tinged with
pink and green. This evokes a fantastical world that echoes throughout Galliano’s collection.
Galliano also drew inspiration from the works of Hungarian artist and photographer, Brassaï. The
black-and-white photographs, characterised by their grainy texture and candid portrayal of the city’s social fabric, offered an unfiltered glimpse into 1920/30s Parisian society. Through Galliano’s interpretation of the evocative imagery, he seamlessly infused his own creative vision into the narrative, crafting his show as the ultimate love letter to the city of Paris. Galliano not only honoured Brassaï’s and Van Dongen’s work but also elevated his own designs to new heights of artistic expression and cultural significance.
The collection featured a variety of elements, including featherlight jackets, chalk stripe flannel trousers, rigid bodysuits, fanciful masks, avant-garde headwear, unkempt wigs, exaggerated suits, full skirt sheer dresses, leather plates with a porcelain effect around necks, velvet dévoilé fabric sequins, and intricate draping and embroidery details. These are just a few of the elements that added to the overall allure of the collection.
However, it was the inclusion of corsets that truly captured attention, evoking nostalgia for the ‘Belle Époque’ era renowned for its iconic hourglass silhouettes, delicate lace details, and cinched waists. These timeless elements were seamlessly woven throughout the collection.
Leon Dame, a German model who has become a familiar face walking the
Maison Margiela’s shows, graced the runway wearing one of the show’s
stand-out looks: a striking bustier and tailored trousers. This served as an
indicator that Maison Margiela is continuing to invite more inclusivity to
Haute Couture. The house embraces a more expansive and diverse representation rather than addressing the traditionally feminine clientele. Additionally, the casting for the show was expanded for the first time, with many models larger than sample size, further highlighting the brand’s commitment to greater inclusivity.
Doll-like accents infused the playful details of shirt dresses and tweed skirt suits, achieved through the new technique known as ‘rétrécirage’. This method involves shrinking the garment, resulting in a charmingly coquettish expression. This new technique is only one of fifteen new techniques created during the twelve month period Galliano and his team dedicated to crafting this collection. Galliano, renowned for his experimental nature and distinctive approach, introduced a total of fifteen novel techniques while creating this collection. By continuing to push the boundaries of design innovation, his distinctive flair as a designer sets his work apart from other fashion houses- he is in fact in a league of his own.
The collection’s fusion of artistic painting processes and the ritual of dressing sparked an exploration of the muse-like relationship between artist and anatomical dolls that were conveyed not only through clothing but through the makeup artistry of Pat McGrath. McGrath crafted doll-like expressions on the models’ faces, featuring glassy smooth skin, rosy cheeks, Galliano’s signature razor thin brows and eyeshadow hues reminiscent of the colour palette of Kees van Dongen.
The theatricality and playfulness extended onto the catwalk, culminating an immersive experience like no other. Models strutted with expressive body language and animated faces, radiating smiles and grins galore. This served as a refreshing departure from the typically stoic expressions and pursed lips often seen on the runway. What distinguishes this show as ground-breaking, unprecedented in the fashion world for over a decade, if not two? What continues to captivate the digital sphere and fashion communities? Perhaps it’s the absence of overt commercial motives. With its distortions, theatricality and playful elements, this show defies the conventional norms of the modern day fashion industry, which has long grappled with the fear of prioritizing commercial appeal
over artistic expression.
Daring and authenticity in fashion has somewhat reached a nadir, but Galliano has delivered a long yearned for collection that offers an alternative to the status quo, in turn reigniting the passion of many. This Galliano revival may not only serve as a personal redemption, but also as a redemption for the fashion industry as a whole. In essence, this show seemed to be just what the industry needed, with plenty of lessons that might resonate across the industry.
Indeed this show served as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, transporting us to a past that feels distant yet familiar, while also sparking excitement about Galliano’s return to his roots. However, amidst the wave of nostalgia, it’s crucial not to overlook the overarching theme of self-exploration that lies at the heart of the show, acting as an important reminder that personal growth and evolution are essential for progress. This is communicated through Galliano’s craftsmanship, his unparalleled talent for pioneering innovative techniques in material manipulation, which ultimately shape not only the garment but also the body and by extension the sense of one’s self.
While reminiscing about the past may evoke feelings of comfort and nostalgia, Galliano’s show encourages us to look beyond mere sentimentality and instead embrace the transformative journey of self-discovery. Through creativity, playfulness, inclusivity, diversity, and design innovation, Galliano emerges as a true luminary within the fashion industry. The Maison Margiela Artisanal Spring 2024 collection shone brightly as a standout during Couture Fashion Week 2024.
Images sourced via Maison Margiela, Dazed Digital and Pinterest.