Storytelling school

At Margiela, John Galliano proves he is the Oz of fashion storytelling

main pictureMaison Margiela Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022Courtesy of Maison Margiela

John Galliano has always been obsessed with fantasy, with process, with showing his inner workings. In a way, it’s the opposite of the great, mighty Wizard of Oz, boasting that we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Galliano is both behind the curtain and his superior shooter, revealing his own methodologies for all to see with joyful glee, realizing that this only makes the magic that much more powerful. The Wizard of Oz the reference wasn’t coincidental, by the way: there were ruby ​​slippers galore in Galliano’s Fall/Winter 2022 Margiela House presentation, talismans charged with the desire to transport and transform, which Galliano never ceased to repeat.

The device is difficult to explain: essentially, in a theatrical space of the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, we attended the live creation of a film projected above the head. And all the trickery, smoke and mirrors of Hollywood crumbled before our eyes, stagehands in brown coats twirling props and filming crops in a tightly choreographed dance that could have been a spectacle in its own right. But among them were models, playing the part of actors, speaking pre-recorded and moving lines like heroes and heroines of the silent screen, to tell a fever dream of a Tennessee Williams-style tall tale. of a pair of star-crossed lovers. There was a matricide, a parricide, and a high school dance somewhere in the middle. There was a crowd of model nurses like a mid-century vogue editorial, an undulating field of corn evoked by sheaves of wheat nailed to a wooden board, a one-time transformation into a spaghetti western, and a heroine Capote-ean in a faded kimono touting her love for Charles James. On the screens, a movie was seamlessly created in real time, skipped cuts, sweeping panoramas and tight close-ups, all evoked through these low-fi props – a metaphor, if there ever was one, for the magic that fashion can create through a humble needle and thread. Oh, and speaking of which, all around were some of the most inventive, ingenious, and even magical clothing we’ve seen in ages. It was a head rush.

Throughout his career, Galliano framed his collections in narratives – his graduation collection was inspired by Les Incroyables, the dandies of the French Revolution, “ripping aristocratic curtains and turning them into waistcoats”. These stories have only woven increasingly complex webs of narratives, taking into account Russian processes fleeing through forests, Freudian families exploring their sexual secrets and collections of biopics about Empress Sissi or the Marquise. casati. Each element of each story inspires an aesthetic approach, a visual language imbued with meaning – colors transformed by the fact that its heroines live by candlelight or gas, fabric treatments determined by the impact of the imaginary places around them, an intoxicating mix of eras and inspirations – nothing ever precisely anchored historically, to allow his feverish brain to plunge him back into the contemporary.

Galliano is the great and mighty Oz of fashion storytelling, but never before has his story been so comprehensive, or so sublimely communicated to his audience, as in this presentation by Margiela. Typically, these stories are a behind-the-scenes shenanigans, something that inspires the dreams behind the clothes, rather than animating their movement before our eyes. It’s a mark of his genius that by sending his clothes whirring through each intricate staging, Galliano only added to their impact rather than distracted them. Our eyes were on these garments – on ruffled tulle sprinkled with sand as if it had been thrown down a dusty highway (in fact, an intricate jacquard), constructed from 19th century linens or vintage handkerchiefs, ball gowns in duchess satin and stiff nylon horsehair and couture nurse scrubs in hospital greens. Their complexity and ingenuity make them impossible to describe in detail, but this collection was rooted in Americana, so there were hints of Presley – Elvis and Priscilla – in 1950s fit and flare dresses and tuxedos in the colors pastel, each Ladurée shade of yellow, pale blue, lilac or pink marking an utterly unique fit, which is the real story of couture, after all.

I honestly have very little idea what was going on; the story was a Möbius loop, turning on itself, repeating itself, the characters jumping between reality and dreamlike sequences like magnificent and absurd excuses for more incredible clothes. Galliano’s love of storytelling never included precision, geographical or historical – remember sending him a steam train full of matadors and horsemen and Linda Evangelista being dragged as Henry VIII on an impossible journey to 16th century America? This Margiela excursion was just as far-fetched. And yet, what we return from all these trips is a renewed hope and love for fashion. Galliano’s palpable joy for creation is contagious – at his best, he’s unbeatable. And it was Galliano reaching a creative zenith, once again. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said a spectator as we exited the theater. I would say we will never see anything like this again, but Galliano will be there next season. He’s on masterful form, and his only competitor, it seems, is himself.