Maison Margiela Artisanal Spring/Summer 2019

by Long Nguyen

John Galliano explained in a podcast that he was ready to move on from his explorations of fast and new glamour in the last few seasons to a new direction with so much energy centering on the idea of decadence in art, film, literature and fashion inspired from Joyce Carol Oates novel ‘Against Nature’.  In today’s super high-speed digital world, the extraordinary abundance of artifice or “le malaise” as Galliano called this process of excess was a cyclical phenomenon with so much imagery that would lead to regurgitation. Galliano deployed these words “overconsumption,” “overindulgence,” and “oversaturation” to fabricate new approach to confront and shake up what is haute couture in thinking and in clothes with the mixed up chaos of cuts and cloths.  Decadence meant the subjugation of rules and order transforming the inner leg of a skateboarder’s pants into the body of a coat without actual but only the memory of sleeves.  

Galliano portrayed this frenzy and chaos in the show’s opening look – a giant bundle of colorful smorgasbord of discarded fringes and fabrics made into a garment resembling a long ‘dress’ without sleeves.  What the model wore - this look of fabrics from variable sources ground up and pasted onto what can be described as a dress - was nearly absorbed by the backdrop of wild graffiti with images of puddle dog painted in white and blue. But from this departure of total disorder and mayhem, the designer reconstructed a sense of order pulling specific segment of a garment like the emergence of a new order from the progression to adding elements of clothes like part of a white buttoning of a jacket on top of the pile in the second look and then sleeves in the third.  By the fifth look, the dress began to take shape – the short sleeve bolero top section with embroidered plastic flowers on orange and light green wool.  

Altering reality to create new reality just like the past concept of the memory of a garment to create new garments and out the chaos from the first look there rose the order of tailoring which its rigorous application of precise cutting technique to get that perfect shape.  ‘Dreams can become a reality’ as Galliano said of the poet Charles Baudelaire’s proclamation.  The evocation of clothes and the memory of clothes allowed for this gargantuan mixture. Then a patch pocket blue leopard print collar jacket and a cutaway skirt painted in graffiti was the first recognizable garment.  

Galliano is a master tailor as well as a master dressmaker with deep knowledge of cutting and draping. By exploring different genres of clothes within the idea of cutting like using a skateboard pant with its inside leg travelling up the side of body and merged with part of a trench to create a bottom section of a skirt worn with dark tee and a jacket stretch to become a wrap cape just like one reality meshed up to create another reality.  The brown wool crop and fitted jacket with satin ribbon closure – a nod to the 18thcentury fastening methods – with navy blue wool sleeves attached at high angle was one of the highlights of the tailoring in a series of coats and jackets towards the end of the show.  The sleeves seemed out of place as if they were placed there against their will.  Elements of clothes migrated and degraded without restraint and resulted in a vest/corset combo onto of a black lace tee-shirt with orange plumes and color print long shorts. 

In keeping with the gender fluid garments that all can wear from his spring ready-to-wear show, Galliano casted male models for the show rather than employing the traditional top models selects.  While this may seem like a radical choice for a couture show, the guys wearing the clothes made the chaos that much more exhilarating.  But if couture is a playground for experimentation, Galliano surely succeeded in changing the values of couture.  

Photos courtesy of Maison Margiela