The middle ground. The phrase implies compromise and by extension, a dilution of conviction. Yet in today’s reality-obsessed haute landscape, the middle may be the new edge, a creative fault line on which the real and surreal commingle in shameless sartorial glory.
At Maison Margiela, John Galliano has found his own middle, one grounded in self-control rather than compromise. For spring, fashion’s most notorious romantic delivered what from a lesser creative talent might have tanked: a powerful fusion of discipline and ebullience. The results were bold and beautiful.
According to the show notes, Galliano’s spring Artisanal collection was about “exalting the process of haute couture through the construct of collage.” He made the clever choice not to go crazy — at least not all of the time. He started pure, with the blank slate of a white cavalry twill mini trench, subtle in its idiosyncrasy — a horizontal slash high across the back from which the model’s long blonde extensions were pulled into an offbeat ponytail. That trench begat another, in triple georgette, with a high-drama trapeze of pleats in front. As the show progressed, often a jacket looked like a jacket (belted olive drab military jacket with embroidered gold metallic collar) and a dress, like a dress (striped polo dress that morphed on one side into a pretty silk print).
Yet inevitably, such definition morphed into more random pilings as Galliano let loose with the collage motif in grand swathes and poufs — lames, fil coupés, brocades, jacquards — arranged with no apparent reason other than beauty. He tore off one sleeve of what would have been a practical winter coat and tossed a giant spill of blue and gold jacquard down its front. There were moments of abandon via proportion (a moody-broody billowing balloon of a dress in mixed textures of black silk) and shape (a flying buttress explosion of deep blue and metallic gold jacquards referred to on the line list as “a belted coat dress”).
Moments of exquisite indulgence came in an embroidered gold dress tacked onto a laser-cut calfskin cape, and a complicated compilation of metallic jacquard and taffeta with a longhaired fur skirt. So did a mannish oversize black jacket attached (or was it?) to a rustling pink and orange evening gown slung over one arm and worn in back, like a train. A meeting in the middle, with maximum impact.