Maison Margiela Fall 2019 Couture

“My intentions are impulsive and anarchic,” John Galliano declared in the engaging podcast that accompanied today’s Maison Margiela Artisanal show. Of late, Galliano has toggled between unbridled excess and sober, even austere-by-his standards, structure. He is one of precious few designers working today who can do both absolutely convincingly. Inspired, he went on to explain, by his perception of “decay and the breakdown of social structure,” he came down on the side of sensory overload and decadence for this coed Fall couture show.

That sounds not unlike what he was up to in January, when he presented his Spring couture. But though the instinct may be the same, Galliano’s thought process and methodology here were new. Two major dynamics were at work. The first he described as “projective filtrage.” Inspired by the sense that we are “eternally walking through a projection”—which has to be the most poetic description of Instagram ever uttered—he created his own projections, printing images of tweeds and houndstooths, as well as animal skins and erotic photos, onto translucent technical fabrics which overlaid his Teddy Boy tailoring. Veiling has been a theme of the week, used variously for seduction or protection. Galliano’s take on it is the most conceptual. In a sense, the vibrating translucent materials act as personalized filters, elevating and optimizing the garments and their wearers. Who needs Facetune?

The other angle Galliano worked was more familiar to his followers. He calls it “nomadic cutting,” and it’s the idea of taking familiar pieces, turning them upside down and inside out, supersizing them, and transforming them into novel garments, so that, say, a pair of pants becomes a bustier dress. More so than in seasons past, Galliano used traditional couture gestures to create his shapes—not just bustiers, but also Watteau backs and prodigious trains. These virtuosic pieces were a reminder of the heights Galliano has achieved, but they produced a new frisson. He sees them as utterly genderless now. Fashion eyes may have adjusted to boys playing the coquette in thigh-high boots and garters, but it’s still a fairly radical look in much of the real world.

Instagram and our various other social media streams are sold to us as celebrations of the self, but there’s a dulling and anesthetizing that’s happening. Galliano’s boundless invention at Maison Margiela is an antidote.