no filter, just dreams: maison margiela and valentino show spring/summer 17 haute couture
On the last night of haute shows in Paris, Maison Margiela and Valentino took the filter off couture.
Maison Margiela spring/summer 17
Backstage at Valentino, a sign on the wall encouraged models to "keep walking in your dream, feel your dream and breathe your dream"—"You are living in a dream," it read. Lately, a lot us have probably felt like we were, just not the kind of dream Pierpaolo Piccioli was referring to. An astute social commentator, he used his spring/summer 17 haute couture show on Wednesday evening in Paris to pull us out of that nightmare and into a different kind of dream. It was the one shared by all of mankind for as long as we've been here: dreaming rooted in myths and legends, practiced to perfection by those Ancient Greeks, who told sagas of conquests and voyages and spellbinding goddesses. There were plenty of those in Piccioli's first haute couture solo outing for Valentino since Maria Grazia Chiuri's departure to Dior last summer, but his antique dream didn't result in princess toga dresses or Hollywood takes on Helen of Troy. Instead, there was something authentic about his dreamy Grecian gowns; something grounded and rootsy, and way more sensual than the buttoned-up, austere — or often wildly majestic — Valentino haute couture excursions of yesteryear. Yes, it was about dreaming the way this most escapist, artisanal corner of fashion tends to be, but rather than dreaming about might and magic, Piccioli's show was a longing for something simplified, less stilted, less fussed, and less filtered than the reality we currently find ourselves in. And that felt very relevant.
Filters were at the core of Maison Margiela's soulful Artisanal collection on Wednesday morning where John Galliano waved his philosophical haute couture wand and put our digital times into perspective. He layered his folkloric garments like filters on Instagram and Snapchat, pulling a white tulle shirt embroidered with an animated rainbow-colored face over a black coat, or letting the black tulle lining of a white trench coat spill out over its exterior forming the face of a woman — this in collaboration with artist Benjamin Shine. Pieces in multiple layers were decorticated to their frames, revealing the structures of garments, which formed new images. Galliano was applying and ripping away the filters we disguise ourselves in, trying to get to some core - some reality - in this digital day and age. On the soundtrack, Joan Baez was lamenting her loneliness in "Diamonds and Rust," a poignant parallel to the little broken heart pendants scattered and shattered through the collection. With Galliano's dramatically multi-layered, multi-faceted and then brutally stripped-down creations passing you by on that podium, you couldn't help but think of the solitude spawned by these times of social media where we're constantly wearing our hearts on our digital sleeves, Snapchatting our emotions away.
In his unforced and utterly superior way, Galliano took a broken heart and turned it into art — as the late Carrie Fisher would have it — as an image of that social media solitude. The last exit, a bold and billowing showstopper, almost looked like a big black heart. Inside of it was simply a deconstructed shirtdress—a brilliant image of the unfiltered human core. Like Valentino, the Maison Margiela show represented the kind of ambiguity embodied by a post-2016 world that's sieved through all the men's and haute couture shows this season. Fashion right now might be about escaping a bleak reality, but it's not about building castles in the sky. The authenticity, which new-generation designers like Demna Gvasalia and Gosha Rubchinskiy often talk about is a very real and genuine desire for people now, at least as far as fashion is concerned. This fall/winter 17 menswear season, Miuccia Prada talked about "the need for normality" and Dries Van Noten — normally so fanciful and embellished — showed a virtually minimalist collection that paid tribute to his small-scale manufacturers; the heart of the garment. "I wanted the collection to be grounded," he said. For Piccioli and Galliano, whose Valentino and Maison Margiela shows on Wednesday closed three weeks of men's and haute couture presentations, fashion was still about dreaming — only, the dream itself may have changed.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Valentino images courtesy of Valentino Spa. Artwork courtesy of the Tiroche DeLeon Collection.