Maison Margiela Artisanal: John Galliano’s Paris exile

A dank morning in Paris, but a high-color show at Maison Margiela Artisanal, where the walls of the house’s 11th arrondissement headquarters were a blaze of graffiti.


Maison Margiela Artisanal - Spring/Summer 2019 - Photo: Maison Margiela/ Instagram

 
Not just any graffiti, but one that starred a bright blue poodle, clipped English Saddle style, the same canine that trotted across multiple looks.
 
There was plenty to admire in this collection of Maison Margiela Artisanal, the marque’s term for its couture range. John Galliano opening the attack with shaman chic, deconstructed coats in ragged trims, tassels and mini feathers, like 3D versions of the graffiti background – topped by cut-out rugby skullcaps and Indochinese fishermen’s hats. Gender fluidity with a gritty twist.
 
As the show progressed, the abstraction increased – whether patchwork, gender-bender cocktails in photomontage graffiti – worn on coal-eyed young men - or Harris tweed capes, embroidered with John’s poodle.
 
The British couturier then suddenly changed gears, sending out some wickedly cut menswear ideas. A peak-shouldered tweed hacking jacket with giant sleeves finished with a grosgrain belt and paired with fencing tights, seen on a beautifully bedraggled youth. A coat-dress with similar sleeves and a classic mac torso; before finishing with a series of glove leather coats, without sleeves, very posh straitjackets one wondered how one actually put on.
 
The cast marched on a mirrored catwalk, the better to reflect the maniacal quality of these clothes. The music was practically deafening, kicking off with a frenetic 'Knowing the Ropes' by the Michael Nyman band and orchestra.
 
Provocative, aggressive and frequently stunning, this was a powerful couture show. However, it lacked a key element that one associates with Galliano in his pomp – ravishing femininity.  Since his departure from Christian Dior just off the Champs Elysées, and his arrival at Margiela and its studio in gritty north Paris, Galliano has certainly been revived. But his unique gift for theatrically reinventing feminine beauty has grown more absent from his shows. His move across Paris today felt like an exile, not just physically but also creatively from a key part of his own fashion. Like an archer, who went out exploring without several of his best arrows in his quiver.

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