One had high hopes for the Margiela Artisanal Couture show. The menswear had been such a resounding success that interests were certainly piqued for the couture offering. Walking into the Margiela house, through the buzz and up the stairs to the salon, one was washed in a UV lilac haze. The traditional white salon had been updated into a black setting - this doesn’t sound like much but the white walls are so synonymous with the brand’s identity that painting them black is akin to Dolly Parton suddenly going brunette and getting a breast reduction. A big deal.
The staff in MM white coats looked like buzzing fireflies against the dark UV as they sent everyone to their seats. Amongst the seats, and in some places used as seats, were globular distorted ottomans in neon green, browns and purples by artist Jessi Reaves. This was the first time that John Galliano had commissioned an artist to present new work at Maison Margiela - a signifier about the artistry within this collection perhaps? Or an overall reference to the raw artistry they both share. Either way, beautiful.
A little note with the invitation insisted upon flash photography to see the garments’ full effect and as models marched down the runway one began to see why. Pleats, trench coats, collars and parka jackets came alive with a flash. Emerald greens transformed into oil slick iridescent, bright blues and yellows appeared as though the inside of Abalone shells. This was truly exciting; looks became entirely new with the bright pang from a camera, pleated dresses and skirts became holographic in hue, instantly Instagrammable. Isn’t that how the majority view catwalk shows anyway? Through the lens of a phone? It seemed Galliano was riffing on this social commentary - if you weren’t looking through a screen, you missed the magic, you missed a captured moment.
Trainers - a refurb of the SMS introduced at the menswear shows - came with ski sandal styles and thick straps, no heels here. This is a power woman on the move, she’s dressing in haste, she’s got to go, she’s moving fast. Hair too, by Eugene Souleiman, was for the snappy dressers, caps of compact glitter or paint splats - the latter we’ve seen in previous seasons. This act of dressing in haste is freeze-framed in the cuts; one-shouldered coats, outdoorsy shapes. Nods to Galliano at Dior appeared also, chinoiserie decadence on Cheongsam’s with Margiela plastics overtop were joyous to see, as too were the parasols. Particularly captivating and child-like was a plastic layered skirt that swooshed and chinked as the model walked - as if the Maison’s Artisanal 2009 Comb Dress had been given a rainbow make-over.
As the woman next to me left, she muttered something about the show being fabulous but not couture. Not couture? It was bloody genius. This was artisanal craft, texture, technique and ideas with an everyday element to it. My only criticism, the number of POC models that walked - I wanted more skin-tones against the opalescent colours. Nonetheless, this felt like a special occasion, one felt excited and privileged to play witness to the magic-show of Margiela - if that's not couture I don't know what is.