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The Many Reasons John Galliano's Maison Margiela Artisanal Spring 2024 Show Was So Impactful

John Galliano is a complicated designer to discuss. He’s an unparalleled talent and creative genius responsible for some of the most memorable collections ever shown. He’s also battled some demons, and was “cancelled” before that term’s real emergence. 

He’s stayed relatively quiet since being fired from Dior in 2011, even after joining Maison Margiela as creative director in 2014. And while his designs and show concepts haven’t lacked in creativity, subversiveness or Galliano signatures, his time at the brand thus far has been marked by an element of humble restraint. Whether that was due to a fear of ruffling feathers, a desire to focus on the garments alone, not wanting to defy the Margiela house codes or a general lack of confidence, who’s to say? But as of Maison Margiela’s 2024 Artisanal (its term for couture) show on Thursday night, that restraint is gone.

I started working in fashion in 2011, so — thanks to the power of live streaming — this was the farthest I’ve ever seen Galliano go conceptually since then. It was mesmerizing to watch in a way that runway shows rarely are, even through a computer screen: The set design, the music, the hair, the makeup, the models, the movement and, of course, the clothes and their styling all came together to create a dark underworld and tell a haunting story, one that conveyed (and inspired) so much emotion, from sadness to sensuality to danger to desperation to power to fragility. 

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Per the lengthy show notes, the idea was to “build an exterior expressive of the interior” and “paint a picture of the practices and occurrences that shape the character reflected within our dress.” Galliano took inspiration from the Hungarian-French artist Brassaï and his voyeuristic photographs of Paris at night, reflected in the show’s setting — under Pont Alexandre III lit by a full moon — as well as the cast of characters who walked the runway and the collection’s color palette. 

“A focused awareness of our unnoticed surroundings unfolds: the night-time revelers one passes on a moonlit wander along the Seine, what lies beneath the imprints of their clothes and what happens behind the dimly-lit windows of their homes,” the show notes read. 

The immersive experience wasn’t only for those who secured an invitation: The livestream would be intercut with pre-filmed black and white clips, a way of using technology to remind viewers of life off the internet. (Per the notes, it was “a multi-disciplinary staging simultaneously filmed, edited and broadcast to physical and digital spectators. Would you like to take a walk with me, offline?”)

The theatricality enhanced rather than compensated for the clothes themselves, with their sculptural and body-modifying and -revealing (we’re talking full frontal, in some cases) silhouettes. Galliano employed no less than 15 different techniques to construct them, eight of which he invented and used for the first time for this collection. Here’s one fascinating excerpt from the show notes, to give you an idea (each of the italicized words are new techniques):

Posing as heavy-duty wardrobe staples, featherlight jackets, coats and trousers are constructed through the technique of milletrage: a mirage created from a filtrage composed of a mille-feuille of organza and felt under a wool crêpe printed with a trompe l’oeil of the texture of a classic gentleman’s cloth. It is draped – aquarelled – in a voilette of tulle illusorily printed to appear moon-faded, sun-bleached, tobacco-stained or oily as if illumed by the reflection of water at night. Exercised through emotional cutting, the garments are imbued with the unconscious gestures that shape our expressions: a caban pulled over the head in the rain, a lapel raised to cover the face, a trouser hoicked up to evade a water puddle.

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Dolls were also a point of reference, as illustrated by the marionette-like way in which several models walked, and the plastic-like appearance of their skin, courtesy of the incomparable Pat McGrath.

Featuring references to Galliano’s late-’90s/early-2000s heyday (which, to be fair, included a few problematic moments), the collection felt like a direct response to those who’ve spent the last few years decrying fashion for becoming stale and uninspiring. As many have already said and will say, it’s a a return to form for Galliano, once known as fashion’s enfant terrible.

One aspect of the whole production that may have flown under the radar but is worth pointing out is the casting: As Steph put it when we were discussing the show in Slack, “This has to be some kind of record for the number of curve models on a couture runway.” Per Models.com’s lineup of the show, it appears six of the 26 female-presenting models (about 23%) who walked would qualify as curve models. To be fair, the collection itself did feature a special emphasis on the female form (sometimes using padding to exaggerate it), but each model so deeply inhabited whatever role they were instructed to play, it would have been easy to overlook the fact that this was one of the most diverse European runways in recent memory. And many would argue that’s exactly how true size inclusivity should come across: seamless and natural, as opposed to tokenistic box-checking. It’s one of several reasons this show feels like a turning point we won’t soon forget. 

See every look from Maison Margiela’s 2024 Artisanal collection below. (And watch the livestream here if you haven’t already.)

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela

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Source: Fashionista.com

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