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Maison Margiela SS20
Maison Margiela SS20Photography Cristina Fragkou

Galliano gets political with activist-inspired Margiela show

The legendary Maison’s SS20 collection is about ‘freedom, hope, and activism’, says the designer

John Galliano has spent the last few seasons at Maison Margiela creating a new uniform for what he calls his ‘digital nomads’ – members of the upcoming generation for whom the internet and social media has been integral to their lives pretty much since birth. 

Where AW18’s couture collection offered up wearable tech in the form of iPhone ankle clamps and backpacks with built-in screens, as part of the house’s vision of the not-too-distant future, last season the British designer explained Margiela had moved into an era of overconsumption, information overload, and decay, with this new age of anarchy reflected in the cut of the garments and the glitchy, abstracted images that many of them were emblazoned with.  

At this season’s womenswear show, which took place in the Salon d’Honneur at the Grand Palais in Paris this morning, the breakdown of society was seemingly at the forefront of Galliano’s mind. Instead of looking forward, for SS20 he referred back into the history books, studying significant figures who fought for the freedom many of us enjoy today, including pioneering physicist Marie Curie and WWII nurse Edith Cavell.

“(Margiela SS20) is about remembrance, it’s about liberation, it’s about having a voice. These people fought for you so you can vote, so use it. Make yourself heard. It’s important” – John Galliano

“The overall theme and message of this collection is one of hope, being inspired by these amazing characters,” Galliano explained in the latest episode of Margiela’s The Memory Of… podcast. “Witnessing the very breakdown of the moral fibre of society, the trivialisation of democracy and the European Union… Isn’t this what they fought for, for peace? I love this spirit of activism.” (Clearly, Galliano has had one eye on the SS20 collection and one on the news and the shitshow that is British politics right now).   

This inspiration and sense of hope translated into a co-ed offering inspired largely by uniforms. Luxe leather trenches were layered over deconstructed tailoring, utilitarian cotton jackets with multiple pockets were paired with calico skirts with lace detailing, while military-style, full-length coats with velvet collars were finished with high-heeled, thigh-high patent boots for both boys and girls, wool berets, and even the kind of veils nurses historically wore on the battlefield. 

Also on the line-up were a series of pieces bearing glitchy graphics inspired by Christian Marclay’s artworks, though it was Leon Dame who turned up and stole the show. Marching down the runway in his usual wild style, the model wore a stand-out leather jacket and white pants (plus more of those sexy boots), as part of a look inspired by traditional navy sailors’ uniforms. 

At the conclusion of the SS20 The Memory Of… podcast, Galliano offered up a concise round up of the collection, as well as a plea to fans of Maison Margiela and those listening. “It’s about remembrance, it’s about liberation, it’s about having a voice. These people fought for you so you can vote, so use it. Make yourself heard. It’s important.”