by Stephen Garner

For its spring/summer 2021 ‘Co-Ed’ Collection, Maison Margiela interprets the connectivity of interdependence in times of separation through a new film.

In the second and final installment of S.W.A.L.K. – the film project first launched for haute couture – creative director John Galliano demonstrates how techniques developed in the brand’s Artisanal collection are artistically industrialized for ready-to-wear.

The film – brought to life by image-maker Nick Knight – illuminates the ecosystem of Maison Margiela. Portraying the house’s redefined numeral lines through the identification numbers worn in competitive tango dance. Every garment and accessory find their technical provenance in line 0 (the Artisanal collection), while genderless pieces developed for the ‘Co-Ed’ Collection – a blank label within the numeral system – can become perennial fixtures within lines 4 (Iconics for Women) and 14 (Iconics for Men).

Observing the spirit of the tango dance, formal jackets are slashed open and imbued with dancing frills bursting out from within their layers. Muslin and tulle dresses created with circular cutting evoke the effect of a wet look, a technique reminiscent of wet-drapery, further evolved into knitwear and interpreted in illusionary motifs on tailoring. Prints with a purpose created in the image of humble tape – derived from artisanal embroideries – invoke movement. Jackets constructed in a millefeuille of fabrics carry the trace of time of their layers.

The collection is conveyed through the traditional colors of tango: black, red, white, and grey. The palette of the classic gentleman’s wardrobe is expressed in the dark colors of pinstriped tailoring, in the muted shades of heritage knitwear, and the delicate cream of formalwear.

The idea of storied garments reflects an old soul echoed in poverino pieces spliced from several repurposed components such as a jumper, a shirt, and a vest into one single piece, their layers cut away to reveal the garment’s structure. Along with selected bags and shoes, it is created under the Maison Margiela label of Recicla: genuine vintage finds, restored, and re-appropriated as limited-edition garments or accessories, and sold in the brand’s own stores. Like the cathartic process of the tango, cutting through the folds of lived-in garments is a liberating practice: it frees the energy of the old and reinvigorates the cloth.

Accessories this season are informed by the visual universe of tango. This collection features Recicla beaded evening bags from the 1960s, as well as raffias and straw bags. Handpicked vintage items, Recicla pieces have been restored and labeled along with a number of other bags, which will be made available in the stores of Maison Margiela. The Snatched bag appears in shiny black leather. Traditional tango shoes create a point of departure for the Hyperion Mary-Janes, a genderless pointy flat, which features in calfskin, velvet, and a red Recicla edition in soprarizzo hand-made velvet. Similarly, the Hyperion Ankle Strap is a pointy flat created in brocade. The Tango Pump kitten heel manifests in leather, suede, and brocade, as well as in Recicla editions in broccatello and soprarizzo. The Tabi is interpreted in clear material as pumps and derbies. A nod to dance, they reveal the chiffon ghillies, which appear throughout the collection.

See the film presentation below.