PARIS, France — In the wake of Brexit, with the rise of Trump, it’s hard to deny that revolution is in the air, even if you don’t like the form it’s taking. From his first collections at Central Saint Martins, John Galliano has always had a hearty appetite for upheaval. His new collection for Maison Margiela felt like a gleeful reminder of his natural affinity for le bouleversement, even referring back to his earliest work with a reappearance of les merveilleuses, the kids who revolted into decadent style in the late 18th century as a reaction to the French Revolution. Was it just these tired eyes, or did one skirt actually pick out the word “revolution” in a jumble of letters?
From the first upside-down coat, the clothes were an orgy of topsy-turvy (that initial offering was cleverly untopsied for the finale in a winning piece of gotcha stageplay. The same thing happened to a Mongolian lamb parka, which initially appeared as trussed-up as a straitjacket.). The strapless, empire-lined, knife-pleated purity of a Delphic oracle’s gown had a puff of sleeve formed by the compression of a motocross jacket. Another oracular item featured a bodice heavy with crystals, gateways to the future. A heavy studded wrapdress was wreathed in quail feathers, the garb of a pagan high priestess. The purest merveilleux walked in sheer, dampened chiffon appliqued with an antique red lace sprite.
In the confluence of what looked like repurposed bits and pieces — plastics, nylons, army surplus — and artisanal ingenuity and experimental construction (arbitrary sleeves are the bete noire of the fashion avant-garde), the collection felt like the best marriage yet of Margiela and Galliano. Maybe that’s because it had light and wit and verve (and the sun was finally shining outside). It also had fantastic footwear in the handpainted clogs. Fashion swirls in cycles. As the shadows gather, the madness of King John is looking like a lantern in the dark.