Over the last few seasons of Maison Margiela shows, John Galliano has been exploring what he calls “the cyclical process of decadence,” which loosely translates to an observation of our over-indulgence in the digital age. In his eyes, our devotion to excess will eventually overspill. It follows, then, that if his last haute couture show was the height of decadence and his ready-to-wear show in February hit the stage of decay that inevitably follows, then this collection represented the aftermath of that cycle. “I’m feeling that we are in decay and that reflection of the breakdown of social structure,” he said in a podcast, released as the show began. “I feel we’re going through a survival mood, and perhaps needing to revert back to trusting our instincts.”
Galliano sees this constant of stream of information, imagery and impressions as a threat. “Desire without reason,” was how he termed it. “My intentions are impulsive and anarchic,” he added. Through what he called “projective filtrage,” he printed couture fabrics to look like the sturdy tweeds, herringbone and houndstooth of menswear – trompe l’oeil style – only to overlay them in organza and crinoline printed to look like projections of reptile skins.
This filtering effect made it look as though the models were walking through a projection. But while nudes shot by Katerina Jebb were actually projected onto the walls of the Maison Margiela atelier during the show, the projections within the clothes were optical illusions. Projection, as Galliano explained in his notes on the show, signifies “the act of moving forward”, like a glimpse into the future.
So, after the decadent storm: humble men’s trousers transformed into glamorous ballgowns. “It started its life as a pair of weekend trousers in good British tweed, and that slightly off-golden colour a gentleman often finds in his linings,” he explained. “I supersized the trousers, then I opened them along the fauchette of the crotchline to discover the lining, which I also opened. I’ve opened the front of the trousers, so I’ve been able to drape with the button-fly opening and the pockets, and the pleats at the top. That becomes my abstraction of a bustier. Then, I pull the lining through the back, and over, to create a watteau,” he said, referring to the bow-like train. The red-carpet dresses – which had an air of Galliano’s Dior days about them – he deemed “couture clichés”, hinting at their exaggerated silhouettes.
Galliano was keen to bring in the personal too. He talked of his learnings during his treatment in Arizona in 2011 when, through equine therapy, he met “an alpha dominant” horse called Blue. “We learned a lot together. And working with him for about three months, I was able to reconnect,” Galliano reminisced. “The strength of a horse; the trust, the knowledge, the wisdom. You can’t lie to a horse. They are so sensitive. They feel any anxiety or fear. And only when you conquer that will the horse let you dominate him. When you dominate the horse, he’s a friend for life.”
Perhaps there was also a message within the soundtrack, courtesy of Madonna, that opened his show: “How could I trust anyone after years of disappointment and betrayal? How could I not want to run away again and again? Escape. I will never be what society expects me to be. I’ve seen too much… In the end I still have hope. I still believe in the goodness of humans.”
From British Vogue