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What makes the Maison Margiela Artisanal show spectacular?

FASHION WEEK

Last Thursday 25th of January, 2024, at dusk, John Galliano was at the top of his game with his spectacular Maison Margiela Artisanal show. Taking place under the Alexandre III bridge in Paris, the runaway show was a fitting end to the Spring/Summer 2024 Haute Couture Fashion Week.

Le défilé Maison Margiela Artisanal printemps-été 2024.

Maison Margiela Artisanal show under the Alexandre III bridge

 

On Thursday 25th of January, 2024, the Left Bank quays underneath the Alexandre III bridge in Paris were the stage of an unforgettable fashion event that conjured up the golden age of haute couture.

 

Under the Parisian drizzle and the light of the first full moon of the year, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Nadia Lee Cohen, Yves Tumor and many other guests took a seat in a cinematic setting reminiscent of the cafés, or rather the gambling dens of the late 19th century, designed with La Mode en Images for the Maison Margiela Artisanal show.

 

As a veteran of a bygone era when fashion designers used to be both couturiers and showrunners, John Galliano presented a spectacular show that was completely worth the one-hour delay and offered us a brilliant finale to the lackluster Spring/Summer 2024 Haute Couture Fashion Week.

  • Leon Dame au défilé Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024.

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  • Gwendoline Christie au défilé Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024.

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Lucky Love, Leon Dame and Gwendoline Christie, the Maison Margiela muses

 

John Galliano invited Lucky Love to perform his latest song Now, I don’t need your love, along with a gospel choir to open the Maison Margiela Artisanal show. The French singer, dancer, cabaret performer and actor, who had already set the tone for the Maison Margiela Spring-Summer 2024 show, delivered an intense performance that set the mood for the rest of the show.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic was a time for John Galliano to rethink his fashion shows and experiment with new broadcast techniques. If, at the time, the use of videos was the golden rule, the British designer pushed the limits by fusing theatrical, physical and digital performances with a truly innovative approach. A blatant example of this evolution is his Maison Margiela Artisanal 2022 show, a narrative inspired by the Southern Gothic literary genre that was imagined as a play and captured by cameras integrated into the performance. The cameras simultaneously recorded and broadcast the video to a digital audience in order to create an immersive and captivating experience.

 

For his Artisanal 2024 show, John Galliano once again blends digital and live performances, using video as a cinematic prelude. Evoking Paris through the lens of photographer Brassaï, sublimated by a Hitchcockian black-and-white artistic direction and excessive sound effects, the short film projected on screens inside the room took us on a stroll in the heart of the city.

 

Along the River Seine reflecting the shining moon, several nocturnal creatures gathered, such as model Leon Dame, who after walking down the steps of the Alexandre III bridge to emerge on the quays. Wearing a corset and black pants, John Galliano’s muse opened the show with his sensual gait among the guests.

 

The gallery of characters that followed him on the catwalk adopted the same whimsical approach - an idea of movement director Pat Boguslawski - exalting a masterful collection where John Galliano’s dandies and dolls meet Margiela’s radical vision. The twenty-minute-long show ended with the dramatic appearance of British actress Gwendoline Christie, whose modeling talents had already been showcased by Thom Browne. A memorable finale to a masterful show, which earned the fashion house a ten-minute standing ovation.

Lucky Love et Gwendoline Christie au défilé Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. © Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images.

John Galliano, a fashion designer at the top of his game

 

Causing a sensation on social media and garnering praise from the press, Maison Margiela’s show had become the number one topic to be discussed by the whole industry the following day. At least for once, the presence of the Kardashian-Jenner clan wasn’t the only reason for the media frenzy.

 

At Maison Margiela, Galliano delivered one of the most beautiful shows of the decade”, the French daily Le Figaro dared to write. Vogue Runway, the platform dedicated to fashion shows, headlined its review: “John Galliano Caps Off a Subdued Couture Week With a Stupendous Coup de Théâtre at Maison Margiela”.

 

A consensus that can only be justified by the terrific staging. While the extravagant persona of John Galliano’s early days has given way to a more discreet character, the son of a plumber born in Gibraltar in 1960, still remains one of the greatest fashion designers of his generation, if not of the history of fashion, forty years after his debut.

 

A sneak peek at his graduation show for Central Saint Martins School, entitled Les Incroyables and inspired by the French Revolution, or at his sensational collections for the house of Dior (1996-2011), are great reminders of his genius.

 

It took twelve months overall to create the designs of the Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024 collection, some of which are the result of new techniques developed by John Galliano and his team in the ateliers. Highlighting the art of dressing up, but also of undressing, the collection plays with transparency, body architecture, prostheses, and trompe-l’œil effects.

 

It includes the techniques of seamlace, which consists in garments inlaid with lace or other materials cut together, or milletrage, a combination of mirage, mille-feuille and filtering, which creates feather-light garments masquerading as hard-wearing coats, jackets or pants, as well as aquarelle on dresses reminiscent of Kees Van Dongen paintings - a new term used for the draping of tulle or muslin, in the manner of an artist painting with watercolor.

Le défilé Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. © Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images.

Pieces by Christian Louboutin, Stephen Jones and Robert Mercier

 

To achieve such a degree of virtuosity, John Galliano has also surrounded himself with the best French and British craftsmen. Among them are the milliner Stephen Jones, who has collaborated with him for the molded wolves since his arrival at Dior, the leather sculptor Robert Mercier for bibs imitating porcelain to perfection seen on Gwendoline Christie, and the lingerie house Cadolle founded by Herminie Cadolle, who invented the bra in 1889, for men’s and women’s corsets, like those worn by Leon Dame and Lucky Love.

 

The final touch to these silhouettes of rare complexity was, of course, the shoes. As the models made their way on the catwalk, a bright red sole stood out, leaving no room for doubt: the iconic Tabi shoes, first presented in 1989, are the work of French shoemaker Christian Louboutin. Extending the baroque inspiration of the clothes, the Tabi are adorned with platforms and heels, evoking the clogs or bustles of the 19th-century dresses.

 

John and I met about 40 years ago when he moved to Paris. Working with someone you love and respect was really the nice part of the collaboration. Moreover, Maison Margiela has such precise and strong codes that you can refer to, which are very well preserved,” Christian Louboutin shared in a press release.

 

Finally, one of the most impressive and highly talked about artistic collaborations of the show was the one with make-up artist Pat McGrath. To match the designer’s vision, she imagined a retro-futuristic, doll-inspired make-up with porcelain-like glass skin and pink cheeks, 1930s-inspired thin eyebrows highlighting eyes painted in intense colors, and subversive blood-red or black lips.

 

The general euphoria was still palpable hours after that spectacular and memorable show. We can confirm that this Maison Margiela Artisanal show by John Galliano was one of the finest of the decade. And we hope it will open a road to many more dazzling shows...

 

Translated by Emma Naroumbo.