#SuzyCouture: Maison Margiela Artisanal Has a Familiar Modernism

The colours alone – eerie shots of purple, coral, yellow, ink blue – created a masterly effect at the Maison Margiela Artisanal show.

This was John Galliano at his most profound and boundary-pushing. Anyone for a smartphone clamped onto leg or arm? This particular accessory might have been a stroke of wit – or perhaps a message about clinging too much to our digital devices.

There was a feeling that Galliano had put so much brand power into this show that it was hard to keep up, between the plastic cape swinging free to those juicy colours on fabric wrapped around the body. As the models walked by, a bold lettuce-green tippet of fine fabric might wrap around the neck, or sleek tailoring face-off that homeless hobo look of puffer jacket worn in various layers. That part of Galliano’s personal oeuvre we all know to a fault.

Above all, there was the plastic that he still seems to find fantastic, in spite of all the bad news about it cluttering up our oceans. Who knows? It might have been a plastic-looking material created digitally.

You had to wonder whether Galliano was influenced by the Martin Margiela exhibition at the Palais Galliera (until the 15th of July), showing the strength of the Belgian designer’s plastic inventions three decades ago.

The show notes about the set alone – installed by Dutch architect Studio Anne Holtrop – were head-banging in their complexity. Read, “Are you smart enough to understand this deluge of information?” One section stated:

“An image of material gestures informs furnishings custom-built to relate and interlace with existing architecture. Executed by artisans in North Italy, gypsum walls and columns moulded to the constrictions of the house skew in form, leaning and folding around the doors and corners of rooms. An expression of the gesticular codes of Maison Margiela’s Artisanal terminology, the dents reflect notions of unconscious.”

Yet complication is not really the fashion mood of the moment. And there was something uncomfortably complex about these creations. Stunned, if not much surprised, by the details, it was hard not to feel that the designer is sticking to a familiar track of Arte Povera for the 21st century.

And yet… At least in Galliano’s organised madness there is a sense that he has made Maison Margiela his own, bringing with him his own history, yet with a desire to take a step forward. Not least with a smartphone around the ankle.