by SARAH MOWER
Vive la fashion revolution! Upcycling the heritage of the craft to make something for the present that is beautifully, radically creative: John Galliano tackled the challenge of our times head-on with his fantastical Maison Margiela Artisanal collection this morning. For a designer who began his career with a graduation collection about the French Revolution in a time when young people in London were chopping up vintage clothes from markets, this was almost a reclamation of all of Galliano’s first principles, elevated and reenergized amid the 21st-century youth rebellion against waste and overconsumption.
Most of the collection was made from materials that already exist: “memories” of bourgeois classics, recut, turned inside out, dissected, collaged, and punched through in a riot of color. “An upcycling of values is proposed,” as the clarion call of his press release stated.
Galliano spoke in a house podcast about how he and his studio team had sat and decided “there are too many clothes in the world.” He reflected on the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism after the 19th-century Industrial Revolution. Next thing his assistants were out scouring thrift shops for materials to work into the collection. In many ways, it was a physical and philosophical manifestation of the phrase that has become a commonplace: “There is no away.” Just as clothes can’t be thrown out nor can the history of Western fashion, so it’s down to revolutionaries to make over what remains. And thence to swagger proudly forth in the beautiful results.
The attitude of a girl in an emerald ’50s ball gown veiled with a black tulle cape seemed to symbolize it all. Striding forward in an echo of an Old World couture pose, she held one arm elbow out, her yellow-gloved hand in a fist.
Galliano weaponized his scissors to slice through convention. He diced sections of bourgeois silk shirtdresses into fluttering tabs, imagined perforations as negative-space sequins, and chopped off balloon coat sleeves, attaching them to scarves and tying them to column dresses. Bedsheets—or maybe they were nylon curtains—were repurposed as evening capes, a delicate elegance found in wisps of pink and apricot chiffon draped and taped in place as in a spontaneous Madame Grès–like moment.
All of Galliano’s formidable skills in bias cutting and judging the balance of volumes and color were fully present. For customers who can afford haute couture (for, after all, this is a business), there are rich pickings to be had: the incredible series of oversized coats in single shots of pea green, yellow, royal blue, and red would be high on that list. But then again the thread of democratic idealism ran through them too. Their topstitching was deliberately artless and amateur—Galliano’s salute of encouragement to a new generation of repurposers and repairers. Look, he says: This is haute, and this is special, and if you want, you can just do it yourself.