John Galliano enlists his old friend Laurent Van Der Stockt to document his AW16 collection for the house
The fall of the Berlin Wall, the Arab Spring and air strikes in Syria are just some of the scenes that French frontline photojournalist Laurent Van Der Stockt has documented throughout his career. But while he usually focuses on areas of conflict, earlier this year he trained his camera on a wholly different subject matter: fashion – specifically Maison Margiela’s AW16 ready-to-wear show. Van Der Stockt, you see, is an old friend of John Galliano, who invited him to create some images backstage. Here, in the run-up to the house’s SS17 outing this morning, the photographer speaks to us about his creative practice and process, and what he made of his foray into the fashion industry.
In what way do you feel your and John’s creative practices overlap?
Laurent Van Der Stockt: I can distinguish two things. Photography belongs to the domain of appearances, of what appears in front of our eyes, which can be everything and very little at the same time. It is, for example, very little compared to what words can articulate. Clothing, fashion, what the other sees of us first, is somewhere along that scale of the perception of appearance. It is a vision, an image – which brings us back to appearance, with all the mystery and tangibility this brings.
In addition, prior to the work, there is perception: what one sees, feels and understands. I have always seen various documents, materials pinned on the walls of John’s studio, which reflect how he perceives society at that time – from city streets to couture salon mirrors. I have always observed John noticing changes in these places, to which he would then add his own influences, either to enrich or question them. He has a great capacity for perception and observation, which precedes reflection and work. It’s very photographic, in a sense.
What was the inspiration behind the images you have created?
Laurent Van Der Stockt: It is not necessarily a question of my inspiration but of what I’m trying to observe – John and his team’s inspirations. I try and record, almost mechanically, as much as I can.
What was the environment like backstage at the show?
Laurent Van Der Stockt: The ideas are there. Clothes exist and should be worn. Is it the clothes that have come to life on someone or is it someone that brings them into existence? It is a stimulus for everyone involved. Ideas flow and everything is built collectively; it's extremely human.
“I try and record, almost mechanically, as much as I can” – Laurent Van Der Stockt
How would you describe the essence of the show?
Laurent Van Der Stockt: A sensual and sophisticated femininity, which could not exist without the subtle play of references and subversion – the same way that French surrealism came to be through the technique of collage. For this, the anonymous and mysterious discretion of Maison Margiela is manifested through a combination of noble and classic, along with avant-garde, materials.
And how have you attempted to translate that into these images?
Laurent Van Der Stockt: The result, the collages, are not a personal work. Maison Margiela has a long tradition of working collectively; individuality is questioned. So it seemed to make sense to me that the Maison Margiela team worked on them collectively. The images are therefore loaded with traces of the fashion house.