Maison Margiela Through the Zoom Looking Glass
The label released a documentary film that shows the process behind the creation of their Artisanal Fall 2020 collection.
When talking about The End of the Runway, it’s easy to focus on the humdrum shows where editors file in out of obligation, sit on their assigned square on a bench, record the final walk through on their stories, then file out en masse to the next show like zombies. In that sense, it’s true: some fashion shows could be an email.
The Maison Margiela fashion shows do not belong in this category. Pre-show the air feels electric, once the music starts pumping and the models start their walk you are on sensory overload: the clothes! the makeup! the hair! the hats! and then Leon Dame comes out doing his magnificent walk and you can almost literally feel the people around you fill up with joy. A Margiela show could never be an email.
Or so I thought until I watched S.W.A.L.K., the documentary film released in place of the Maison Margiela Artisanal Fall 2020 collection. While it remains a fact that a Margiela show could never be an email, it turns out that it can be an email, a Gchat, a Zoom, an iMessage, a PowerPoint presentation, multiple tabs open on a desktop, a camera set up on various members of the atelier, a groovy rave in the atelier, ghosts. And it is still glorious.
The film is a completist look into the way a Margiela collection comes together, from the first creative brief email sent. Through Zoom calls we see creative director John Galliano walk his collaborators Pat McGrath, Eugene Souleiman, Nick and Charlotte Knight, and Jeremy Healy through his concept for the collection: the Duchess of Marlborough, wet clothes on marble sculptures, the New Romantics, Zoot Suit Riots. The screen share becomes packed with open tabs, open images, windows open to email moved to the side, a chaotic representation of our lives online. It’s also exactly the way you’d expect a Margiela collection to come together. One wishes that there would be a film like this produced for every single collection.
And even through the computer screen, there are still moments that cause visceral reactions, just like in the runway show. After seeing an artisan carefully trace and cut small pieces of leather, the unveiling of the resulting delicate leather Tabi ballet flat unleashed an “oh!” from my lips. And later, the image of McGrath struggling to share her screen on Zoom made me laugh (relatable!), and the reveal of her genius makeup concept did take my breath away. And of course, we still get to see Leon stomp up and down the makeshift runway in the atelier. S.W.A.L.K simply has everything.
For fashion obsessives, stuck at home and missing the fantasy of fashion, the film is nothing short of a gift. As are the clothes. Intricately draped and pleated dresses that look as if they have been drenched in water, oversized deconstructed jackets. Clothes so fantastic it would be enough for them to exist just in our dreams, but we are lucky enough to witness the extraordinary team at Margiela bring them to real life. We don’t need to have a place to wear them, we don’t need for them to be in our closets (although blessed are those who can!), we just need the knowledge that it is possible to bring this much beauty into the world.