It seems a bit reductive to go with the David Bowie tide and lump Maison Margiela’s latest Artisanal show as a “tribute” (does that word end up feeling a bit hollow and disingenuous, when it crops up time and time again in headlines?). I’d argue that John Galliano’s character – particularly the one he has been carefully etching out at the Maison – has always been a bit of a starman or woman. Out of this world. Not of this planet. Travelling in mysterious ways across continents and time epochs to gather up vibes and textiles to put together ensembles that are embedded with stories, design quirks and of course Galliano’s deft cutting hand.
Of course, it’s hard not to look at Pat McGrath and Eugene Souleiman’s power combo of Ziggy Stardust wigs and glam rock face painted insignia and think “Bowie”. But strip that away and what you in fact have are clothes that are a textiles enthusiast’s dream, crafted not for showmanship and surface-driven pizzaz but as an ode to hidden layers – revealed through torn and shredded appearances. It’s like the fashion equivalent of stripping wallpaper, where layer upon layer of different decades have been concealed.
Some of the descriptions are deliciousness all by themselves…
scrunched ash wood fabric, fil coupé jacquard, lacquered Miao cotton, grain de poudre wool
No wonder the show made you want to reach out and feel it more, even as the models were walking in whirring speed to an appropriately chosen pacy remix of Edith Piaf’s Mon Manège à Moi (You’re my Carousel). The contrasts and contradictions that Galliano proposed seemed the most well-executed to date, since he joined the Maison. It wasn’t just about a lofty concept or idea, but these are uniquely hybrid garments that worked and felt evocative. Like a polo shirt dress with a floral pattern zig-zagging its way into the stripes. Or a belted safari jacket and trench coat blooming with brocade rips. Or the finale piece – not the Galliano favoured wedding gown – but an MA-1 jacket exploding with all of that sumptuous jacquard, fil coupé and lamé.
Sometimes these bursts of richness would come at your unexpectedly, as seen in a black blazer, gushing with a sweeping prom dress-esque pink and orange cloqué. Sometimes you’d get surprising touches of earthiness in the form of Fair Isle hand warmers and inoffensive vintage t-shirt prints. All the white, Galliano’s Far Eastern pre-occupation lingered in the form of Korean paper prints, bonsai and butterfly motif lace, and the bulging volumes of fabric bundled on the back, like the horo forms of protection worn by samurais. If you’re a fabric magpie, you can’t help but be drawn into Galliano’s layerings of techniques and custom made textiles. This time round, none of them felt like haphazard experiments of a couture laboratory. These were the finished article, well-rounded, well-judged and ultimately, sets a lasting tone for the Maison’s ready to wear.