While the disheveled splendor of a former convent in Paris’ 11th arrondissement once served as the headquarters of Maison Margiela – whose walls and surfaces were famously whitewashed by eponymous founder Martin Margiela – last night marked the inauguration of a brand new home as the house threw open closed the doors to his shiny new studio in the elegant 16th district and host a catwalk show together to celebrate his success under current Creative Director John Galliano.
Located on the Place des États-Unis – close to the Arc de Triomphe – the headquarters was transformed into a comprehensive exhibition for the select group of participants for the evening. Guided by footprints that meandered through the offices, shaped like the Maison’s Tabi split boots, guests were led through the atelier, where a vintage car was propped up from the ceiling as if about to fall from above (its passengers, clad in tulle ruffles, were frozen mid-flight). The duo was meant to commemorate Count and Hen, the fleeting, hapless lovers of Galliano’s theatrical Southern Gothic-inspired artisanal show last June, a movie of which was playing on a loop in a mirrored “Cinema Inferno” room next door.
“Young rebels with a conscience”: Maison Margiela F/W 2023
This milieu hinted at the inspiration for the Fall 2023 season, which marked Maison Margiela’s ready-to-wear return to the catwalk since before the pandemic (she was last shown in February 2020). “The co-ed presentation picks up where the story left off,” read the collection notes, which make it clear that Galliano began the collection by imagining the fictional love child of Count and Hen: “a fusion of elements, the splicing of genetics, ideas and traits brought into a new expression…the result of Count’s aristocratic influence and the false pretensions of Hen’s upbringing, it’s a cross-fertilization embodied in the contemporary spirit of young rebels with conscience.’
After taking the elevator up to the fifth floor, the show itself took place on a brightly lit catwalk with mirrored walls, partly reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s optically white hallways 2001: A Space Odyssey. “This is the future,” proclaimed a disembodied voice over the pounding soundtrack as Galliano’s spliced replicants tumbled down the runway in a typically vibrant mix of garments and reference points, often seeing garments stripped to reveal their construction – a process the call house. decortiqué’ – alluding to Martin Margiela’s deconstructivist approach. “Getting dressed in a hurry” was one of the collection’s descriptors, depicted here in cut-open, bias-cut dresses and skirts that coil around the body, shirts that appear to be thrown on backwards, or layers of garments tucked into fishnet stockings be plugged in. Scraps of paper reminiscent of punk flyers were tucked into the back of clothing, while Mickey Mouse motifs kept popping up.
As is typical of Galliano’s work, a defiant glamor interwoven these idiosyncratic elements, with looks cloaked in layers of tulle or ruffles of velvet or sequins; on feet, riffs came on the tabi in dizzyingly pointed patent heels or shimmering crystal derby shoes (some in ruby red slippers). A series of large opera coats with various floral motifs and bows was a nod to the designer’s enduring fascination with haute couture and a homage to the house’s atelier.
The evening ended with another climb to the HQ’s highest point, a wraparound terrace with a 360 degree view of Paris beyond. A giant billboard looped a Nick Knight film created for the relaunch of Maison Margiela’s e-commerce site; In the distance, the Eiffel Tower provided a dramatic backdrop (lit up, as if on cue, with its twinkling light show). It was impossible not to be seduced by the moment – a triumphant housewarming as Maison Margiela enters its latest chapter.
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