Review of Maison Margiela

Fall 2023 Men's Fashion Show

Review of Maison Margiela Fall 2023 Co-Ed Fashion Show

Deconstructing the Fabric of Time

By Mark Wittmer

Maison Margiela’s first proper runway show following years of experimental hybrid film formats was a stellar return for one of the best in the biz, a richly layered reminder of why the runway is the best place to experience the power of clothing in motion – both in space and in time.

Maison Margiela Fall Men’s 2023 Fashion Show

John Galliano’s imaginative and impeccably crafted vision for Margiela was operating at maximum power as he synthesized his twin penchants for deconstruction and cultural collage.

With its sinuous silhouettes of elongated torsos, widened shoulders, and done-up hair, the collection’s general reference point seems to be women’s fashion of the 1930s, a smoky antique glamor that is emphasized by the veiled pillbox hats made from both silk and what appears to be plastic bags. It’s a base layer of inspiration against which the many anachronistic moments evocatively stand out, and yet totally work together. Of course, most women – and men – of the 30s wouldn’t be wearing mini shorts over fishnets, or the many alluring layers of sheer fabric that both obscure and reveal the body of which Galliano is so fond.

A partnership with Pendleton means the brand’s legendary plaid runs throughout the collection, lending both a cowboy roguishness and a punk sense of rebellion to these poised and darkly glamorous figures, which in turn adds punch to the house’s transgressing of codes and eras. Whether glittery pumps or black derbies, every shoe is a tabi. Still, even if we couldn’t see the feet, we would know this is unmistakably (Galliano’s) Maison Margiela.

A sense of cultural cross-pollination is threaded through the layered looks that aptly ties into their elevated-cut-and-paste approach: old-school Mickey and Minnie Mouse graphics, a pink and haphazardly Xeroxed poster that directly recalls the Sex Pistols’ imagery (another celebratory reference to Westwood’s punk trailblazing legacy), and the famous Pendleton patch, image of an iconic American garment, all appear. The frequent references to western wear are of course quite Americana as well.

Coupled with the collection’s feeling of noirish glamor, this transatlantic mutual exchange seems to paint its characters as posh yet punky steamship passengers and haunters of gin bars, pretty young things who lived the transition from café society to jet set. Yet these aren’t just geographical explorers, but also temporal, as their accoutrements plucked from Victorian London, 1880s wild west, 1930s Paris, and 1970s American suburb go to show (the stark and gleaming set design did indeed feel a bit like the interior of a time machine).

Galliano’s approach to deconstructionism in fashion, which sees him leave exposed seams and structural elements that would normally be invisible in a finished project to reify its process of coming into being or rework the back of a piece as its front to question taken-for-granted constructs in our daily dressing, has always been a core element of his work at Margiela, but its power for blurring time and space feels especially apt in a collection that is concerned with doing just that. He’s also revived the Recicla collection, in which one-of-a-kind vintage pieces are sourced and restored by hand in the house’s atelier.

And yet with all their diving back into history, looking at these clothes, we never have any doubt when we are: firmly in the present, on the cutting edge of time.

Maison Margiela Fall Men’s 2023 Fashion Show

It’s a fitting collection to end a men’s fashion week that was about much more than just men’s fashion.