'Dark' was the watchword for Maison Martin Margiela's collection - metaphorically in the sombre clothing shown, and literally due to the blacked-out venue that had models and audience members fumbling in the gloom. This was part of an unsettling, transgressive showing where the machinations of the fashion system seemed exposed: unwieldy cranes spiralling arc lights around the black catwalk pinning models into a harsh (and evidently dazzling) white spot. It could be as simple as light vs. dark, but as models stumbled around the multi-levelled catwalk it seemed more a commentary on the perils and pitfalls of the current fast fashion fads. Jean Baudrillard reasoned that fashion's meaning exists merely in its difference to that which precedes and proceeds - the point being, who cares about an ensemble after the attention of fashion's spotlight has been directed elsewhere? It made intriguing food for thought.
But enough of the postmodernist cant - what of the garments themselves? Margiela can be credited with starting the current avalanche of boulder-shoulder shapes, and consequently theirs were the sharpest and most angular with sleeve heads jutting flatly like paper-bags. The opening outfits were intriguing, with Plexiglas epaulettes suspended like spectral silhouettes above the models' shoulders, refracting the ever-present bright beams of light. Elsewhere, crotches dropped (been there, seen that) and more interestingly hackles rose to pull the silhouette of neat leather jackets above the head. This was all an experiment in displacement, toying with proportion and elongating the silhouette about the median of the waist. Playing with function, trench coats were deconstructed to their abstract components, and jacket sleeves fused with torso to form capes with curvilinear 'ghosts' of limbs protruding in a curved elbow.
If this show lacked the spectacle and spine-chilling drama of last season - a fashion landmark is hard to live up to - it at least kept the optimism, and intelligently so. Often optimism is mistaken for simple, sparkle-soaked kitsch, but Margiela proved every cloud quite literally has a silver lining. Their cloud was a cumulonimbus of mattress-quilting, clustered around a model evidently told to be stony-faced but who couldn't help but break into a smile. And, to close, a silver glitter ball refracted light into a thousand dancing fragments across the ceiling, bubbles spewed overhead, and Margiela's models emerged again, this time their shrouds in purest white point d'esprit.