Maison Martin Margiela has had a somewhat difficult time recently - collections badly received in the wake of a reported parting of ways with its eponymous, if faceless, founder. The is he/isn't he questioning will no doubt continue for some time, but Margiela today seemed to be on steadier ground than of late. This season, rather than attempt to execute 'in the style of', the Margiela team (with or without Martin) returned to the house's classic territory of perverted and inverted scale. Sleeves were blown-up three times their normal size, flattened into a backwards curve and set on easy-fitting men's tuxedos and biker jackets. Waistbands were pumped out to defy gravity and stand free of the body - echoes of the percentile enlargement of Spring/Summer 2001, these jutted stiffly up and out, a narrow belt wrapped around to emphasise the visual gag. Details were blown up to macro scale, fist-sized cufflinks hanging as abstract jewellery from a hand, a money-clip securing a length of fabric or clipped to a jacket, and a velour-flocked ring-box, a good six inches square, became a postmodern minaudiÃƒÂ¨re. The play with accessories was the most successful, if only for genuinely confounding expectations - when a model came out clutching a white cardboard Margiela tie-box, it was only through the programme notes you realised it was nappa-lined as a makeshift evening bag.
As is often the case without a father figure around to coax and cajole, the children often went too far - did we really need to see Elmer Fudd fur hats enlarged to Paul Bunyan proportions, shoved on the head of a model trussed head-to-toe in a giant pair of tights? It has an echo in that Russian Doll knit-cocoon wedding dress created by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1960s, but you need to be a fashion geek to pick that up, and when it looks this clumsy it really shouldn't be seen. Indeed, a little editing would have gone a long way at Margiela. There seemed to be a few too many ideas on the table - far better than too few, but the collection could have benefited from some harsh editing. Trailing panes of chiffon sticking out from underneath dresses added nothing to the equation, and digressing through ideas of opening and closing 'S' line shapes around the body only served to confuse matters even further. This wasn't an absolute return to form - frankly, fashion designed by committee is never a great idea - but it seemed a genuine effort, with some novel reinventions of Margiela past, if nothing genuinely ground-breaking. Alas, it was an asterisked addendum that really shed light on the parade of clothes that we saw: '*Line 3: Collections of fragrances.' There's the rhyme and reason behind this show, in five words or less.