maison margiela revels in catholic guilt
For his SS20 show John Galliano finds the joy in suffering. Hard same.
John Galliano's SS20 show for Maison Margiela was something of a journey, predominantly through time, but also through politics and fashion. The uniform whiteness of the show space, its total blankness apart from a large, silver mirrored panel reflecting everything back on the catwalk, the clothes, the viewer.
The immediate takeaway might well have been Leon Dame's dramatic closing walk, all staggering and lurching, but beyond and deeper than that there was much to unpack and enjoy and think about.
The easiest starting point might be a century ago, it told a story from the roaring 20s through WW2 to liberation, all refracted through Galliano's hyper modern lens. But it took in; Weimar decadence, post-war exuberance, Catholic guilt and Catholic gilt. There was joy and suffering. A subversion of a show of strength. Sexual freedom and restraint.
It twisted Marx's truism, that history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce, around the kind of collective fashion spectacle only Galliano's capable of. The historical parallels are obvious, and barely need underscoring, but fascism and populism are on the rise, the news moves at a startling, runaway and blinkered pace, hope and suffering and outrage occupy and entwine with each other. The show notes spoke of the challenge to discern between "memory and oblivion, real and unreal". It felt like Galliano was carving out a space of creative resistance among the bad news cycle.
Which is why the most evocative, dramatic, looks evoked the wild hedonism of VE Day, the lifting of the veil of fascism across Europe, it was a show of uniforms at its basis, which, like the history they evoked, were turned inside out, ripped apart, put back together. It put together a wild world of references, 18th century sans-culottes, German wandervogel, WW2 sailor boys, 50s disenfranchised motorbike outlaws, jazz age, interwar Cabaret kink, nuns and nurses and sisters of mercy, post-war new look glam, Jean Genet and Jean Cocteau's sense of how sexual transgression can lead to political revolution.
And that message came encapsulated in that final, swooping, indescribable, swagger. It seemed, this strange, leather clad sailor boy on knee high, high heel boots, in his ambling, jingling walk, was queering the whole of history.
Photography Mitchell Sams