Maison Martin Margiela's Artisinal line manages to be both the apotheosis and the antithesis of haute couture. It is, of course, crafted by hand, each garment and accessory constructed to be a complete one-off. That's the very essence of haute couture, some may argue the reason it continues to exist at all. There will always be a customer who demands the unique.
The manner in which the Maison Martin Margiela team achieve that, however, runs counter to our perceptions of haute couture as the zenith of luxury. Margiela create trench-coats from packing-tape, stitch thousands of discarded gloves into ballgowns, or weave elastic bands into sweaters. Margiela call this line Artisinal because it is about just that - the artisan, the power of the human hand to transform even the humblest object into a thing of beauty.
This season there was something of a celebratory mood: champagne caps and wire compressed into Tabi boots that looked strewn with confetti. The same effect ran riot across a leather trench and shirtfront like the lingering aftermath of a party. That sense of memory was picked up in eveningwear that utilised hand-embroidered momento cushion-covers from First and Second World War soldiers, emblazoned with sentimental statements sent home from the front as keepsakes. They were reconfigured into a gown and evening apron. The party element was picked up in a technicolor blazer woven from Brazilian silk and nylon bracelets. As ever, the production stats were as noteworthy as the clothes: the latter took 157 hours to hand-assemble, never mind the sourcing and selection of the component items.
It feels anti-fashion, but Margiela's approach is simply anti-convention. After all, what are sequins and beads but plastic and glass - reinterpreting their decorative effects with nylon cord and the aforementioned post-party debris isn't a million miles away from the original. And both result in truly exceptional clothes.