When your fashion design team includes John Galliano and Pat McGrath, you’re in for something spectacular. That’s why the mysterious Maison Margiela fashion house asked these two daring artists to design their 2017 show as a pair. It’s a match for the ages. Galliano was responsible for re-inventing Givenchy and Christian Dior before joining Margiela back in 2014. Despite his history of controversial outbursts, he remains one of the best in the business. McGrath is the woman behind nearly every unconventional makeup look in modern fashion. Multiple Vogue articles have labeled her the most influential make-up artist of this century. With a duo like this, it’s no surprise the Maison Margiela 2017 collection was one of the most talked-about shows at NYFW. Here’s why the fashion world can’t stop discussing it.
A Fresh Makeup Look
In recent years, Pat McGrath accepted the unique challenge of transforming the way we think about runway makeup. For her, any fashion material can inspire a beauty look. “I’m influenced a lot by the fabrics that I see, the colors that are in the collections, and the girls’ faces. It’s always a challenge but that’s the key – to make it different every time.” The Maison Margiela 2017 spring collection featured some of the makeup artist’s most intriguing work to date. Using the human face as a canvas, her soft colors and sketch-like contours gave traditional French artwork new meaning. Here, model Barbora Poczimková’s bold red lips and thick contours are crafted with strands of yarn to add texture and depth.
John Galliano’s designs for this year’s Maison Margiela show were anything but conventional. For those familiar with his earlier work, the subversive outfits come as no surprise. Galliano has been refining his signature blend of hectic and beautiful for years now. His first collection for Margiela in 2015 was an autobiographical collage that incorporated his extravagant graduate show with tailoring techniques he perfected while running his own fashion label. In 2016, Galliano riffed on dystopian society with models sporting earpieces, headsets, and Lucite-heeled clogs. This year, the designer gathered a diverse selection of overt references to the American past and contemporary tech-obsessed youth for his fashion line. Like this look – sheer metallic gloves matched with country lace – his 2017 designs explore the intersection of past and present through fabric, color, and structure.
Familiar But New
When Maison Margiela first hired John Galliano, the choice was a risk. Despite his dynamic career with Givenchy and Dior, the designer was recovering from a crippling scandal and three-year absence from the industry. It isn’t clear why the French fashion house trusted Galliano to re-invent their brand, but time proved their faith was well-founded. After a few months adapting to the prestigious surroundings at the brand’s Paris headquarters, the designer debuted his first creation at the British Fashion Awards. The rest, as they say, is history. Galliano says his troubled past gave him a new perspective in his work. “I’m not talking about narratives any more,” he clarifies. He’s basking in the moment and enjoying the hands-on aspect of pure creativity. This new focus is clear in outfits like this one, where imagination inspires something familiar yet new.
Past and Present
This year, Galliano with McGrath found the perfect marriage of their two art forms. The team’s collection blended makeup and clothing to comment on the current state of humanity. They even had Joan Baez’s 1975 hit “Diamonds and Rust” blaring in the background. Here, McGrath’s use of colorful yarn contrasts the youthful energy of social apps with Galliano’s dark, classic dress. The deconstructive elements of Maison Margiela’s 2017 collection strive to illustrate what Galliano sees as the basic, contemporary struggle people face today: contrasting urges to escape back to basics and remain constantly connected. “Some people have decided they’ve had enough,” the designer muses. McGrath’s jacket makeup expresses this cultural “exasperation” with a crude rendering of the rainbow-puking Snapchat filter. It also embodies a more primal version of the show’s past versus present theme. Calm versus chaos.
The unifying design principle of Maison Margiela’s 2017 runway was deconstruction. If you look intently into each outfit, you can see past the fashion façade and watch the underworkings spill out. Some layers were revealed through light, transparent garments. Often, recognizable clothing was stripped to the seams until it hung around the body like a soft, cage-like sculpture. There was something Picasso-esque about the way both Galliano and McGrath mined makeup and beauty for uninhibited, raw emotion. It seems almost ironic that these subversive outfits made up what Maison Margiela describes as their “artisanal” collection. While mesmerizing to look at, they are far too edgy to survive on a red carpet.
The Ultimate Maison Margiela Outfit
Everything you’ve seen pales in comparison to this dress. The stunning, realistic face made with gathered tulle fabric could only come from the mind of John Galliano. I don’t want to spoil the impact with a detailed analysis of his artistry. The best thing to do is just admire.
Maison Margiela, John Galliano, and Pat McGrath made magic last week. You may not feel comfortable wearing these outfits, but you’ll remember them for months.
— Timothy Vest