When scrolling through Maison Margiela's new website, you'll quickly garner that this is more than just a place to go shopping; it's an experience. Here, clothes are seen in movement, just as they should be.
Refinement, poetry and storytelling are the pillars of the brand helmed by John Galliano since 2015, so it's little surprise that they also underpin Maison Margiela's e-commerce site. Vignettes created by filmmaker Britt Lloyd see models high in the clouds as they take on the characters embodied in Galliano's clothes, rather than being static silhouettes as is the norm in e-commerce, inviting the consumer to partake in fashion as the ultimate fantasy.
Maisonmargiela.com is a piece of art in its own right, rooted in the desirable codes of its namesake. These codes speak of an aspiration and romanticism that applies to few e-commerce platforms, if any. The business of buying clothes should be about desire and lust, which this meeting of visionaries offers. This is Nick Knight and John Galliano for Maison Margiela.
Existing in their dream worlds pictured as asymmetrical curved rectangular bubbles separating each look, movement is everywhere as the models and clothes are caught turning, twisting, and dancing across the website which can be explored through a genderless category or women's and men's; this is fashion and e-commerce in motion like you've never seen before. 'It's all based on selling desire and having a particular garment to be part of that vision to people; it's about getting someone to think, "yes if I have that coat, I'll be chicer". We all have that; there's no point in pretending we don't', says Knight. So, how did this all come about?
Wanting to rethink and recontextualise fashion's relationship with e-commerce, Galliano called upon his long-time collaborator to help him redesign the maison's website. Leading digital design studio International Magic also came on board to weave together the immersive environment, assisting Galliano in turning his characteristically bold vision into a reality.
'It's become obvious to me after the last three or four years that actually, probably the most interesting and exciting cutting edge tool in fashion right now is the e-commerce site… for most brands, that penny hasn't dropped yet, and they need to reevaluate what they're doing', Knight told me. 'It is paramount that clothes are shown in movement, and he [Galliano] thinks, quite rightly, it gives them soul, personality, a point of view, an attachment to some sort of joie de vivre or feeling of poetry. John has thought, "actually, this is where people go to buy my clothing, so why shouldn't it be incredible?"'
The e-commerce site has fast become a significant player in a fashion brand's revenue over the last decade, earning upwards of a billion pounds. 2020 - the pandemic year as it's come to be known - only accelerated this trend, with luxury group Kering reporting a total online revenue of two billion euros in 2021. If one thing is clear, it's that more and more of us are turning to online shopping platforms to buy our fashion favourite pick-me-up, yet up until recently, e-commerce sites have been left out of the conversation when it comes to fashion imagery that is as inspiring as the clothes they're selling. 'The e-commerce site is where one should put out the most creative and exciting vision of the designer's work because that's the interface between the designer and the public. It should be the closest to the designer's imagination, what they want and a reflection of how they see the world and all those things. It's integral, for me, to get that imagery at the same level as I would if I was photographing a global billboard campaign or an editorial for Vogue or anything on those top levels', Knight elaborates.
In times past, the static imagery that reverberated through fashion e-commerce platforms remained soulless in everything it conveyed and, although uninspiring in its intentions, was undoubtedly purposeful. 'E-commerce imagery was the worst from a creative standpoint', Knight reiterates. 'It was all "you have to see those sleeves are the same length" and "you have a lapel here" and "there's a pocket there", but that's not why people buy things. People buy things because they want to aspire to be like the person in the picture. If you put a scarf on, that's a gesture; if you put a jacket on, that's a gesture, it's a movement; it's about these small moments that feed into the bigger picture of making a garment desirable to the consumer'.
While speaking with Knight, it becomes clear that this is the new frontier in fashion. 'For me, it's imperative that you put all the craft into creating a great fashion image because a great fashion image will sell clothes and create a desire in people to have that sort of clothing.' Of course, there are multiple ways in which desire can be communicated, which is where International Magic comes in. 'Simple details such as flipping to the "stitch" icon on scroll or the misshapen boxes inspired by the physical store designs were essential elements which helped transport John's vision from a physical to a digital reality', Adam Rodgers of International Magic explains.
Knight and Galliano have worked together for well over two decades, brought together by their mutual love of clothes and vehement belief in showing fashion in movement; in recent years they created two fashion films S.W.A.L.K and S.W.A.L.K. II. for the maison. For the new website, they wanted to create an incredible experience for the Maison Margiela customer, and to do so, Knight knew he needed to 'get somebody to do it who also loves the clothes.'
Cue Britt Lloyd. 'Britt understands Margiela because she's worked with me on the brand over the years, she understands what John is trying to do, and she really loves what he does; she understands those clothes which is really important because there are a lot of photographers who just don't', Knight says. Lloyd previously created the video lookbook for Maison Margiela's S/S 21 collection, and Knight explains that to work with the brand, 'You need someone who has a sense of refinement and elegance which is in tune with John's refinement, elegance and intelligence, and you need someone who understands the craft of making your own fashion imagery.'
Essentially, Maison Margiela's new e-commerce site is more than just 'commerce'; it's higher than that - it's a place that's as creative as the very atelier it replicates. You don't need to accept this to admit the glaringly obvious craft and beauty of the new website, but once you do, you realise this is fashion in its most tasteful, adventurous and romantic form. 'He's doing incredible things, John. [The e-commerce site] is a beautiful material to be working with, and it must be treated as such, not just to make a CEO of the company money; that's the important thing. E-commerce is saddled with problems, all stemming from its negative connotations. It's E and its commerce; it's not e-art? That is what it should be; that is what it is: e-art.'