Make-believe is driven by instinct. Born out of the subconscious, it is an imaginary expression of our innermost thrills and tribulations. For the 2022 Artisanal Collection, Maison Margiela stages Cinema Inferno at the Palais de Chaillot, an assemblage performance piece conceived in symbiosis with the haute couture collection. Identifying a post-digital desire for physicality, Creative Director John Galliano crafts a multi-disciplinary format: a theatre played out in front of live spectators, captured by cameras that integrate with the performance in a film simultaneously broadcast to a digital audience. The narrative was created by John Galliano and brought to life in collaboration with the British theatre company Imitating the Dog.
A Southern Gothic tale unfolds in the dark, poetic heart of America as a sandstorm engulfs our story’s ill-fated lovers, Count and Hen. On the run and wounded from a gunfight, they drive through the Arizona desert in a filmic haze as their pasts flash before their eyes: the wedding of their abusive single parents that made them involuntary step-siblings, the elation of Hen’s pregnancy, and the subsequent parricide that turned them into outlaws at large. Delirious from their getaway, they pull up to an isolated hotel only to discover that it is, in fact, a cinema. Here, as they draw their last breaths, Count and Hen fall into a cinematic loop spun from the joys and traumas of their subconscious, their memories echoed in the iconic scenes of classic American films. Chased by apparitions of the law, they end up where they set out, escaping through the sandstorm forever after.
Told through the grammar of haute couture, Cinema Inferno explores representations of the patriarchal abuse of power – parental, legal, educational, religious, medical – in fabric and cutting techniques developed in the Artisanal atelier. Power-cut staples from the men’s wardrobe evoke the memory of Geneva Bands, classic haute couture silhouettes are imbued with the language of surgical scrubs, and sorbet-coloured prom expressions appear slashed and spliced. Sandstorming, a new Maison Margiela motif that intricately creates the impression of a sandstorm in a garment or accessory, features in fully engineered fabric weaves, in needle-punching, flocking, or beading. Recicla pieces employ antique 19th century bedlinens and collage original 20th designer pumps into new manifestations.
Sandstormed garments are partly crafted from jacquards created through a painstaking process in which sand is sprayed out over a fabric and transformed into a print, which is, in turn, engineered as a jacquard. Spectral Cowboy characters appear in the authentic materials of the Western wardrobe: Loden wool, flannel, herringbone, coated felted wool, velvet, coated velvet, and denim. Plaids feature in collaboration with Pendleton and are further interpreted in tulle. Prom dresses are constructed in tulle and double-duchess silk satin, while Teen Band Member characters feature in bark cloth and brocade. Silhouettes imbued with the lines of scrubs draw on the clinical sensibilities of neoprene, piqué, brushed bouclé, nylon, foam and crin.
Communal figures emerge in prints depicting florals, horror motifs, and Venues flytraps. Repurposed Recicla pieces include a Pierrot look constructed from 19th century bedlinen, a jacket for the character of Adela made from a 19th century bedcover, and boxer shorts worn by the role of Stanley transformed from vintage handkerchiefs. Underwear is structured in latex.
The power-cut introduces a way of cutting in which dress codes associated with power – like Geneva Bands – are evoked within a garment. Sandstorming is a new technique which conjures the effect of a sandstorm in fabrication and surface decoration achieved through needle-punch, flocking or beading. Essorage, the up- and down-scaling of garments that brings out the erosion of time, is employed in morning coats and shorts. Placage, the practice of fusing any two garments by deconstructing one and applying each piece to the other, appears in the floating pockets of a bark cloth coat overlaid in tulle. Centre cutting creates a horizontal incision across a tailored garment through which one half of its volume is resized. Slashing appears in coats to imitate a sense of movement. Circular cutting, a way of disrupting the draping of a garment to create a sculptural effect, is employed in a crombie prom coat.
Anonymity of the lining, the revelation of a garment’s interior construction, appears in tweed and herringbone coats. Poverino assemblages – single garments spliced from several components into one combined piece, their layers cut away to reveal the structure of the composition – manifest in horror-inspired looks. Bird-pecking cuts up a men’s coated felt coat to evoke a fur stole. Fabric plumage is created from double-organza hacked up to create the illusion of plume. Elbow knitting structures a voluminous trouser created from printed organza. Variations on the memory of appear in techniques throughout the collection, including a trompe l’oeil approach to cutting which imbues a tailoring silhouette with the memory of a smaller volume within its own frame. Embroideries materialise as crystal, beading, net discs, bin bag material, and plume, and as musical notes and graphic character cord embellishments.
Paintings of American scenery by the 20th century realist Andrew Wyeth inform a palette founded in the desert neutrals of the dark, poetic heartland, with memories of the sand of Arizona: black, anthracite, grey, gold, beige and white, as employed in the wardrobe of Count and the Spectral Cowboys. Prom looks assume the colours of sorbets, from berries and lavender to melon, peach and lemon. In the operating theatre, the clinical hues of scrubs set the tone for medical takes on graphite, green, blue, teal and petrol. Ruby gloves, pumps and bags pay tribute to cinematic glamour.
Recicla collaged monster pumps are repurposed heels spliced from vintage pumps originally created by a variety of fashion houses throughout the 20th century. Through elaborate resizing methods, each monster pump is collaged from three vintage pumps designed by three different maisons, and include museum pieces and collectables from the personal archives of John Galliano. Tabi pumps with a new pointed toe appear in ruby crystal. Tabi cowboy boots feature in tan leather covered in crystal. Tabi derbies with a new pointed toe manifest in black leather, black sand-flocked leather, and crystal. Bags include mini 5AC manifestations covered in ruby crystal and a Snatched bag crafted in Nanjing Yunjin Imperial Brocade. Brooches in crystal take shape in sheriff’s star badges, cats, hats and Pierrot as homages to the motifs of the collection. Sunglasses are created in collaboration with Gentle Monster.
The collection includes three types of hat created by Stephen Jones Millinery: a spontaneous cowboy hat draped in foam and naturally bronzed in the sun, which draws on the Maison Margiela ideas of dressed in haste and appropriating the inappropriate; black cowboy hats in variety of felts with exposed wire or handsewn grosgrain on the edge adorned with metal sheriff’s star badges; and a giant orange pumpkin hat moulded in the finest taroni satin with a stalk in antique velvet. Hats created by the Maison Margiela Artisanal atelier include high-crown hats in felt, pointed hats in printed cotton and cardboard, and swim caps in latex appear.