Label focus: Galliano and Maison Margiela Haute Couture AW15


There are some SHOWStudio panels I’m happier to broadcast than others and this wasn’t one of them. It was as if the impact of Galliano’s ‘return’ - and his return to this particular house - had hit me harder than expected, leaving me tongue-tied and emotional. Aesthetically and politically, I’d been such a fan of old school Margiela: the dirty show spaces; the spirit of rigorous experimentation; the sense of individual anonymity - and thus community - in design; the challenge to traditional fashion beliefs about what's beautiful, what's luxurious; most of all, encapsulating all those concerns, the use of found objects. Bits and bobs were ingeniously turned into ethereal pieces that pulsed with history, more precious than jewels.

Then there was Galliano: a fantastic creative talent brought down by all the most negative aspects of an industry that trades so highly on the visual. We spoke about his appointment at Margiela during the discussion; I said I’d gone into ‘mourning’ when I’d first heard about it. It was not completely an exaggeration. In ‘Fashion at the Edge’, Caroline Evans talks about Galliano and Margiela as diametrically opposite: Galliano, deep within the system, via Dior, aimed his work at society’s highest; Margiela, working outside it (before the takeover by Diesel’s Russo) was inspired by its ragpickers. How the hell were the two going to meet without something being lost? Spiritually and intellectually, Chalayan might have been a better fit.

Galliano’s first offering for Maison Margiela Artisanal collection, despite all the excitement around his resurrection (too strong a word?), didn't help. Bold, brave, an opening statement to a new chapter, it seemed very distant in ethos from the Margiela I loved.

Luckily, I thought AW15, Galliano's second Artisanal collection, was wonderful or who knows what state I'd have been in?

As per usual at SHOWStudio, we couldn’t see it very well, peering into floor level screens that showed still after still. But even then, I was moved by the references, seduced by the colours, excited by shapes that played off non-traditional tropes. Only later, from other show reports, did I grasp the drama and inventiveness, the sheer beauty, of the collection.

An aqua glittery mohair skirt worn with a cropped black jacket; a beige neoprene evening dress coat with arching rounded sleeves and a neatly tied silk blue obi box; vintage French tapestry, hessian sackcloth, richly painted, embroidered and hung with pieces of broken mirror. And finally, finally, the bride in white plastic. Volumes, tension, colour, texture, play (models included, controversially in couture, boys in skirts and make-up, who walked as if hobbled): it was the work of a virtuoso. The show notes spoke of an ‘accidental and unconscious glamour’ but, in reality, the beauty was so unrelenting, it was almost painful.

For Dazed Digital, Susie Bubble wrote: ‘The unexpected eclecticism and the bricolage methodology belonged to Margiela, but the resulting silhouettes and attitude were pure Galliano.’ I’ll just add this: I should have had more faith.

See the complete Maison Margiela Autumn-Winter 2015 ‘Artisanal’ Collection, here.