I stood outside the grand Hôtel des Invalides contemplating what I would see when I went inside for John Galliano’s “Artisanal” show in his role as Creative Director of Maison Margiela.
There has been such an overwhelming focus on Martin Margiela, the founder, since Vetements and its team of Margiela-trained designers has brought back bold-shouldered jackets, oversize coats and a do-it-yourself fashion attitude. Le Figaro, the French newspaper, even devoted an entire page to the elusive and now “retired” Belgian designer.
A shoulderless silhouette for Maison Margiela Artisanal, A/W 2016
I held my breath as the first model stepped out, silhouetted against the white backdrop.
No shoulders! Or rather a wrap coat, as close to the long neck and body as possible, arms dangling downwards over thigh-high boots. Next up: A dress with a bra-top of crystals, the model’s lipstick wildly smudged — a signature of Galliano.
Throughout the show I saw faint echoes of the mysterious Martin, who never spoke to the press and left the brand after it was bought by fashion entrepreneur Renzo Rosso, who was sitting front row.
Here was a sporty red jacket covered with transparent plastic, a memory of Martin’s Spring/Summer 1990 collection, which included what looked like dry-cleaning bags. That fashion moment made a powerful impact after the extravagant 1980s.
Galliano’s vision for this show was intriguing — but quite different: fashion facing-off different attitudes and eras, meaning primarily a grand historical past overtaken by urban urgency. Hence, Napoleon’s Josephine with high-waist Empire dresses and silk textiles creating what the designer’s show notes described as “Watteau backs”.
They were in contrast to parkas, which might themselves be folded and twisted to cover mostly wrists and lower back. Even knitwear, in the shape of a thigh-deep colourfully striped sweater, was dressed up with what might — or might not — have been a garbage bag.
From Galliano’s time at Dior, which included a collection inspired by the homeless, the designer took only some relatively discreet face painting.
I have always liked the concept of “Artisanal”, which led the fashion world to take a more conscious attitude to waste, although Martin would be the last person to take credit for that.
Galliano’s Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela Artisanal focused on what the designer called "undefined endings and beginnings"
Galliano revelled in playing with fabrics, such as balancing traditional Scottish wools from the Outer Hebrides worked into chunky knits, with celluloid bird appliqués decorating a heavy plaid skirt
I also understand why Galliano wants to make his show from his vision. But not referring — even just once — to the current oversize coats and purposefully plain outfits, made the designer seem either defiant - or out of touch with the founder’s roots.