Since the departure of its namesake, Maison Martin Margiela has been going through something of a rough patch. That's putting it politely. While sales have increased and the label has added new and lucrative ranges to their portfolio, in itself something of an anathema to this resolutely anti-commercial house, reviews of their P.M. (post-Martin) shows have oscillated from ecstatic praise to agonised condemnation. There's both a blessing and a curse to being one of the most influential practitioners of late twentieth-century fashion.
For Autumn/Winter 2011, Margiela decided to make a dress. Or, to be slightly more accurate, about thirty-something dresses (when models crawl through a cold concrete venue at a pace that redefines the term 'glacial', one tends to lose count). Studying a dress was Margiela's conceptual conceit, the idea being that those dresses could be chopped up in various fabrics to form different garments. Run a zip up a shearling dress, and it could easily double as a coat, no? Carve out the front completely in dark green wool, and pop it over another dress in shiny patent, and that first dress is now a jacket, right? Slit one open up the back, and shove it over another dress, and then have a third peeking out underneath - okay, then you're just wearing three dresses on top of each other, but if you fuse them all together into one dress...
There was a few clever things done with dress-defining details like lace trims and darts - that's according to the show notes, at least. I didn't notice them too much, except a bit of printed lace on a simple floor-length kaftan. Margiela called those 'abstract rectangular panels', maybe as a hangover from last seasoned steamroller-chic flatpack couture, but I say if you saw Elizabeth Taylor sporting one circa 1973, it's a kaftan.
That could be a metaphor for this whole collection, in fact - call it what it is. This wasn't the kind of conceptual collection filled with mumbo-jumbo packed garments that used to chill and thrill us in equal measure when Monsieur Martin was in the Maison. There was really nothing fiendishly clever, or even especially intellectually stimulating, about the garments Margiela showed today. Sure the styling was down pat - the idea of a Margiela collection being style is, in itself, something of a travesty, but the double-soled stocking-boots, mussed-up hairstyle and random household detritus as adornment ticked all the right boxes without messing up the lines of the eminently wearable and saleable garments. In short, this show was neither ecstasy nor agony. It was adequate. Unfortunately, that's the last thing you want from a Maison Martin Margiela show.