Conception is a fusion of elements: the splicing of genetics, ideas and characteristics into a new expression. For the 2023 Co-Ed Collection, Maison Margiela conceives a multi-layered premise inspired by the procreation of Count and Hen, the fugitive protagonists introduced in its Artisanal 2022 proposal, Cinema Inferno. Imagining the lovechild the pair was expecting when we left them in July 2022 – on the run and trapped in a filmic loop – Creative Director John Galliano melds their stylistic natures into an individual aesthetic. The offspring of Count’s aristocratic influence and the false pretentions of Hen’s upbringing, it is a cross-pollination embodied by the contemporary spirit of young rebels with a conscience.
An illustration of the pyramidical structure of Maison Margiela – where the haute couture experimentation of the Artisanal Collection informs the ready-to-wear of the Co-Ed Collection and all its other lines – the story takes place within its new 16ᵉ arrondissement headquarters at 12 Place des États-Unis. A multi-disciplinary presentation plays out in physical and digital form. Transforming the Maison into tableaux depicting the cinematic loop scenes from Cinema Inferno, its 2022 Artisanal creations are re-encountered from a new perspective within the atelier: the heart of the haute couture house. It paves the way for the continuation of the story, leading live spectators to the fifth floor where the 2023 Co-Ed Collection unfolds in a runway show. Simultaneously, the digital audience experiences the staging in a live stream filmed from a POV perspective.
Repurposing the inherited wardrobes of Count and Hen through the lens of a new generation, the collection examines youth-centric ideas of customisation and the re-contextualisation of memories. Jackets employ decortiqué – which cuts a garment to its structural core – in the creation of the Maison’s new Rorschach cutting, the subliminal subversion of one image into another. Here, cut-out motifs reminiscent of American Western yokes become pareidolic illusions of the ears of Mickey Mouse. A subconscious childhood memory founded in joy, it triggers a collaboration with The Walt Disney Company expressed in Recicla Mickey Mouse cadet hats and t-shirts, some spliced with corsetry like an imagined exchange between the English caricaturist James Gillray and cyberpunk.
In a study of hand-me-downs and the gestures that imbue garments with life, the practice of dressing in haste is applied to bias-cut dresses hacked up and spontaneously fixed into rompers, coining the technique of rompage. Plaid shirts created with ®Pendleton and are worn back-to-front – an exercise echoed in coats and cardigans – and garments epitomic to haute couture or formal menswear cultures subverted through splicing and customisation. Employing the technique of freeze-framing, silhouettes render in tulle the movement of sculptural party dresses captured in mid-century photography. Sunglasses and spectacles used throughout the collection herald Maison Margiela’s new line of eyewear created with Gentle Monster.
At 12 Place des États-Unis – the headquarters at which Maison Margiela took up residence in September 2022 – a multi-disciplinary presentation comes to life in two separate formats created for the physical and digital audiences. Connected to the narrative introduced in Cinema Inferno, the assemblage performance piece that framed the 2022 Artisanal Collection in Palais de Chaillot in July 2022, it continues John Galliano’s Southern Gothic tale of the ill-fated lovers Count and Hen. The 2023 Co-Ed presentation carries on where the story left off.
As screens display voyeuristic documentary-style footage from the making of the 2022 Artisanal Collection, live spectators arrive in the lobby of Maison Margiela to the embodiments of characters from Cinema Inferno. They are led through rooms transformed into the scenes visualised by Count and Hen in their cinematic loop through tableaux recreated with the 2022 Artisanal creations. The experience continues in the atelier where paint-marked Tabi footsteps draw guests to a fantasy crime scene of a classic car suspended in the air as if crashed through the glass roof of the building, heralding the return of Count and Hen. In a room of refracting infinity mirrors, the screen version of Cinema Inferno is projected in a re-familiarisation with the story of the couple and the lovechild who hadn’t yet been born.
Guests are guided to the fifth floor of the building: a stark and brightly lit runway on which the 2023 Co-Ed Collection unfolds: the personification of the lovechild of Count and Hen; a contemporary amalgamation of their characters. Following the show, visitors are invited to the rooftop where a giant billboard blasts the clothes-in-movement concept captured by Britt Lloyd and developed for MaisonMargiela.com by John Galliano in collaboration with Nick Knight. As spectators depart 12 Place des États-Unis, they experience the Co-Ed collection in the context of the backstage milieu in a cinematic epilogue shot by Willy Vanderperre and screened in the lobby.
In real time, a live stream plays out for Maison Margiela’s community of digital nomads. It opens with a prologue likewise created by Willy Vanderperre, capturing a street view of Place des États-Unis from a POV perspective, with the sounds of a car crash and helicopters circulating in the air. Moving towards the scene of the event the camera enters Maison Margiela to find Count and Hen’s car crashed through its ceiling. As the image morphs into the silver debris of the site, the viewer is transported to the Co-Ed presentation where the first muse emerges. Following the show, the stream morphs into the signature clouds and clothes-in-movement concept of MaisonMargiela.com before the camera pulls out to reveal the billboards atop the Maison’s roof and the Paris skyline by night.
Created in collaboration with ®Pendleton, wool plaids appear in shirts, cardigans, rompers and in the detailing of Rorschach-cut outer- and formalwear crafted in wools, cottons, canvas and cotton-satin. Barkcloth evokes the tradition of Americana and appears in floral neoprene-bonded coats and cabans. Evening coats manifest in elevated fabrications such as silk gazar, lamé brocade and changeant cotton. Rompers are constructed in delicate materials like silk chiffon, nylon tulle and lamé, while party dresses – some adorned with sequins – are structured in tulle, silk, silk organza, velvet, mesh and lace, echoed in skirts created in taffeta, silk-wool and translucent nylon. Wool knitwear is garlanded with chain embellishment. Underpinnings – pointed bras, knickers and shorts – are forged in latex and feature alongside tights woven in fishnet. Fascinators are fashioned from bin liners and tulle, while cadet hats with Mickey Mouse motifs and matching t-shirts are repurposed vintage pieces carrying the Maison Margiela label of Recicla.
Rorschach-cut outerwear employs decortiqué – the reduction of a garment to its core construction – to evoke the outline of Mickey Mouse within American Western yokes in outerwear. Drawing on the notion of dressing in haste, rompage hacks up dresses and spontaneously transforms them into rompers mimicking the idea of a dress caught in one’s knickers. Freeze-framing captures the movement of a photographed dress and translates it into the contours of tulle dresses. Poverino assemblage – single garments spliced from several components into one combined piece,
their layers cut away to reveal the structure of the composition – manifests in a tuxedo jacket. Essorage, the up- and down-scaling of garments that brings out the erosion of time, materialises in a carcoat. Sandstorming, a technique which conjures the effect of a sandstorm in fabrication or surface decoration, adorns a black trench coat. Garments labelled Recicla – Maison Margiela’s term for repurposed lived-in pieces – include Mickey Mouse t-shirts, cadet hats, and handbags.
As the cinematic backdrop to Cinema Inferno – the original story of Count and Hen – the dark, poetic scenery of the American heartland inspires a palette founded in black, mahogany, grey, silver, gold, beige, ivory and white. The idea of hand-me-downs informs colours like ruby red, eau de nile and blush pink, while the palette of prom culture is expressed in sorbet pink, orange, turquoise and sage. Mid-century pastels like peony, vert d’eau, melon and wisteria appear in accessories.
Eyewear created as part of the new Maison Margiela x Gentle Monster collaboration features throughout the collection. The genderless line, which becomes available on 28 February 2023 and encompasses eleven designs across numerous colourways, is founded in concepts core to the Artisanal practice of John Galliano. Silhouettes spanning oversized, oval, cat-eye, wayfarer and clubmaster manifestations are entrenched in iconography familiar to us all but subverted through the grammar of Maison Margiela. Observing the idea of appropriating the inappropriate, expanded frames that curve around the face are created from the bourgeois gesture of spontaneously wearing one’s sunglasses as a headband or tiara. The notion of unconscious glamour informs shapes supersized as the memory of the sunglasses emblematic of classic beach culture. And frames evocative of those of sports disciplines – but interpreted in opulent materials – nod at the idea of dressing in haste.
The Recicla Monster pumps featured in Cinema Inferno, originally spliced from the twentieth century vintage pumps of French and Italian fashion houses, are meticulously replicated for ready-to-wear. Proposed in six high and seven flat editions, each fragment of the Artisanal pumps has been painstakingly reproduced. Shoes further adapted from haute couture interpret the archetypes of Americana. Tabi bluchers informed by those worn by US police officers feature an almond-shaped toe – the first-ever evolution of the Tabi toe shape – and appear in box leather or rhinestone-encrusted satin in Las Vegas pastels. Tabi Western boots stretched in dimension are crafted in box leather, distressed suede and rhinestones. Forged in rubber, a Tabi wellington boot integrates the split-toe. A 10-cm heel elevates the Tabi into a pump – also the first of its kind – that manifests in patent leather or rhinestones.