While the dishevelled grandeur of a former convent in Paris’ 11th arrondissement once served as the headquarters of Maison Margiela – its walls and surfaces famously white-washed by eponymous founder Martin Margiela – 22 January 2023 marked the inauguration of a brand new home as the house threw open the doors to its gleaming new atelier in the rarefied 16th district, hosting a co-ed runway show in a celebration of its success under current creative director John Galliano.
Located on Place des États-Unis – close to the Arc de Triomphe – the headquarters had been transformed into an immersive exhibition for the evening, for the select group of attendees. Led by trails of footprints that snaked through the offices, their shape recalling the maison’s split-toed ‘Tabi’ boots, guests were walked through the atelier where a vintage car had been erected from the ceiling as if plummeting from on high (its passengers, clad in tulle ruffles, were frozen mid-flight). The duo were meant to evoke Count and Hen, the fugitive star-crossed lovers of Galliano’s theatrical Southern Gothic-inspired Artisanal show last June, a film of which played on a loop in a mirrored 'Cinema Inferno' room next door.
‘Young rebels with a conscience’: Maison Margiela A/W 2023
This milieu was a clue to the inspiration for the A/W 2023 season, which marked Maison Margiela’s ready-to-wear return to the runway since prior to the pandemic (it last showed in February 2020). ‘The co-ed presentation carries on where the story left off,’ said the collection notes, elucidating that Galliano had begun the collection by imagining the fictional love child of Count and Hen: ‘a fusion of elements, the splicing of genetics, ideas and characteristics into a new expression... the offspring of Count’s aristocratic influence and the false pretensions of Hen’s upbringing, it is a cross-pollination embodied by the contemporary spirit of young rebels with a conscience.’
After climbing to the fifth floor by elevator, the show itself took place on a sharply lit runway with mirrored walls, in part reminiscent of the optic-white hallways of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. ‘This is the future,’ declared a disembodied voice over the pounding soundtrack as Galliano’s spliced replicants lurched down the runway in a typically vivid amalgam of garments and reference points, often seeing clothes stripped down to reveal their construction – a process the house calls ‘decortiqué’ – in a nod to forebear Martin Margiela’s deconstructionist approach. ’Dressing in haste’, was one of the collection’s descriptors, here imagined in sliced-away bias-cut dresses and skirts that twisted around the body, shirts that appeared to have been thrown on backwards, or layers of garments tucked into fishnet stockings. Pieces of paper, reminiscent of punk flyers, were tucked into the back of clothing, while Mickey Mouse motifs appeared throughout.
As is typical of Galliano’s work, a defiant glamour wove these idiosyncratic elements together, with looks wrapped in layers of tulle or ripples of velvet or sequins; on the feet, riffs on the ‘Tabi’ came in vertiginous pointed patent heels or shimmering crystal Derby shoes (some in ruby slipper red). A series of grand opera coats, with various floral motifs and bows, were a nod to the designer’s ongoing fascination with haute couture, and a celebration of the house atelier.
The evening ended with another climb to the highest point of the headquarters, a wraparound terrace with a 360-degree view of Paris beyond. On a vast billboard, a film by Nick Knight created for the relaunch of Maison Margiela’s e-commerce website played on a loop; in the distance, the Eiffel Tower provided a dramatic backdrop (as if on cue, it lit up with its sparkling 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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Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.
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