I’ve always been kind of on fence with John Galliano‘s Maison Margiela. But this season, I’m completely moved by it. Spring-summer 2021 is 100% pure Galliano, the one we love and adore, conveyed through a delightful visual experience. Yes, maybe it has pretty much nothing to do with the well-known image of Margiela (even though the “inside” approach is very Martin), but it’s truly a rare sight to see a brand giving its designer so much creative freedom. When Galliano teased the word magical in a conversation ahead of the reveal of the collection’s film (by the way, if there’s one film of SS21 you’ve got to see, then it’s this one!), he wasn’t overpromising. Epic, explanatory, intimate, and dripping with suspense, it cuts between design sessions and rehearsals in the Maison Margiela studio and the acting out of a gothic South American wedding tragedy, danced out to the strains of the tango. Demonstrating the nitty-gritty of making clothes while showing what they actually are and at the same time conjuring imagined scenes from a designer’s mind is a huge achievement. All the terms that John Galliano has been speaking about passionately for years – “creative process,” “teams,” “themes,” “inspirations,” “techniques” – are suddenly made visible and explicable, brought to life in this fashion-docu-fantasia of a film by Nick Knight. The glee and the seriousness he puts into his work are palpable throughout – as is the effect of the eye-opening participation of the Maison Margiela models on his creative process. Galliano vividly describes the memory of seeing the tango being danced in a dilapidated Buenos Aires warehouse. Then he hires a tango teacher, and the performances of the models, the way they move, actively start to shape the clothes. One thing leads to another, and soon it’s turned into a full-ensemble wedding scenario, with bride and groom and guests dancing toward a doomed, underwater destiny. The fevered action runs with a mysterious spoken script, written by Kier-La Janisse. But we also see Galliano methodically dissecting the gauze wedding dresses, the 1940s suits, the tailored coats and bias-cut silk skirts. We see how each section fits into the numbered Maison Margiela lines. Understand, in detail, how the Recicla upcycled pieces are made into composite garments, and how each of these one-offs are “stringently tested,” ensuring that the materials meet safety standards for sale. Watch the expert skill Galliano applies to cutting away jacket shoulders and inserting tango-shirt frills into slits in classic coats. Interspersed is footage of the manufacturing processes: the screen-printing of the wet-look patches on suits; how traditionally loomed Venetian brocades are made into the dancers’ mary jane shoes; the combination of laser-cut leather and hand-finishing behind the making of bags. None of this could ever have been laid out in a runway show. It makes for a multilayered piece, capturing the drama and the depth of the collaborative work at Maison Margiela, for millions of online viewings and endless commentary and analysis. And the best thing? It’s not an event which is over and done with in the standard 20 minutes it takes for models to file out from behind a white screen, and back again. “Yes,” Galliano mused, “You can put your feet up, have a cup of tea, and watch it anytime.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.