Show Your Seams

john-galliano-1-26apr15-darren-gerrish-bPhotograph from Vogue.co.uk

>> I’ve not got a lot to say about the Vogue Festival that concluded today, having only seen a few of the talks.  Different venue – it was at the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal College of Art as opposed to Royal Festival Hall.  Vaguely nicer interiors.  More phone charging stations.  More make-up opportunities and thus presence of brands at what is obviously a commercially lucrative event for Condé Nast.

The one pressing thought I did take away though came from what was undoubtedly the star attraction of the weekend.  John Galliano *gasp* closed the festival with a conversation about couture with Alexandra Shulman.  The conversation part wasn’t the most interesting element of the hour though.  I use the action-in-asterisk *gasp* because that’s exactly what happened in the auditorium when Galliano got up, handled the finale wedding dress from his debut Artisinal collection for Maison Martin Margiela.  Explaining that Galliano had been inspired by Martin Margiela’s lining from a skirt pulled up like a cape and that he wanted it to make it the leitmotif of the house much like Chanel’s camelia, he lifted the “skirt” of the red wedding dress with the embellished bundle protruding in the front to reveal what was in fact a man’s coat – a sleeve and a lapel hidden away from the eyes of most onlookers.  

Cue a very audible *gasp* in the auditorium followed by a round of applause.  The same happened when he showed off a patent coat attached to the straps of a slip dress from the A/W 15-6 ready to wear – a detail which I loved discovering in the showroom.  What struck me during this short round of show-and-tell is how engaging and insightful it was to see; even as someone who goes and sees designers talking about their clothes all the time.  The difference being of course that Galliano is an exceptional talent and that seeing these deceptive details give the Artisinal collection in particular, so much more heft and weight – especially as I didn’t see the show myself and bafflingly, none of these details seemed to come to light in most of the reviews.

It made me think that there might possibly be an alternative way of presenting haute couture.  As opposed to spectacle and showmanship, of which Galliano himself said today that “today, a little goes a long way”, the focus should be back on the clothes.  A designer could reveal, explain and ultimately enlighten an audience with detailed presentation of every ensemble.  Seams and stitches would entrance.  A show of skill would sell itself.  As I said on Twitter, I really would rather see an hour of insightful anecdotal presentation straight from the horse’s mouth as opposed to the five to ten minute monosyllabic shows that currently blur from one to the other.

As one person asked Galliano whether haute couture was still relevant, with a simple gesture of lifting a skirt and impressing an audible audience, he showed that what’s not immediately visible to the eye is precisely why haute couture matters.  And as many of the conversations batted around these Vogues Festival talks also broached the subject of how social media was affecting the speed of fashion, sitting for an hour or so listening to a designer talk about what actually went into the making of these precious garments sounds like a surefire remedy to slowing things down.  Enough to make an audience really listen and be engaged and pass that messaging on when reporting to the masses.  More gasping please.