For the latest edition of SHOWstudio's annual tradition where we collaborate with a fashion designer and release a pattern from one of their latest runway creations, we've gone bigger and better. John Galliano and Maison Margiela have generously created a never-before-seen knitting pattern exclusively for the occasion. Instructions are simple: take your second-hand shirts, some bed sheets or tea towels, (or whatever does the job, this is all about making use of what you have already), then carefully follow Galliano's pattern and instructions to see your own Maison Margiela jumper take form, all in the spirit of the house's Recicla line. Read on to discover more about the concept which revitalises pre-existing garments and their histories, and Galliano's penchant for storytelling.
As the first model took to the Maison Margiela A/W 20 runway in Paris last February, show-goers spotted a white clothing label sewn onto the deconstructed panels of a turquoise wool coat. In true Margiela style, here was the bourgeoisie undone, quite literally. Avid Maison Margiela fans would be forgiven for taking this white marker as the return of 'Replica', the concept introduced in 1994 by the house's founder Martin Margiela whereby second-hand garments were sought out in flea markets and charity shops then replicated. Instead, the reality turned out to be even more special. This was Galliano's entirely new concept, Recicla being a portmanteau of 'replicate' and 'recycle'. Found garments are deconstructed, turned inside out, unstitched and brought back together to create something new. Sold as part of the main défile (ready-to-wear) line, the introduction of Recicla couldn't have been more timely. With fashion brands jumping on the sustainability bandwagon in the race to stay relevant, now was the time for the Paris Maison to remind everyone who did the upcycling thing before it was cool.
Paying homage to Martin Margiela's 'Replica', John Galliano's Recicla line garments become part of an entirely new design language, all rooted in Galliano's penchant for storytelling. Imbued with the history of the lives of their original wearers, the line reintroduces garments into the world, ready to embark on their next chapter. The outward-facing Recicla label explains the item's origins; where it came from, what period it was first created in. An extension of the temperament of the artisanal (couture) line, the Recicla line is equally painstaking to create. For Galliano, a garment's story lies in every stitch; the ghosts of an item's past are quite literally released as clothes are ripped, torn and cut.
History has long fascinated Galliano - just glimpse back at the spectacle of his Dior days (where Knight and Galliano collaborated on the campaigns for over ten years). Take the Dior S/S 98 couture show in the Paris Opera Garnier for instance. Inspired by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and the ostentatious Marchesa Luisa Casati, the show has gone down as one of the greatest fashion spectacles in recent history. The Dior A/W 00 couture show also springs to mind, which featured a bleeding Marie Antoinette figure teetering down the runway. This period showed Galliano's ability to create the fantastical, drawing from history to create characters which perfectly illustrate the idea of fashion as fantasy. These were shows which a new generation of fashion fans would give their left arm to have been to - just take at the following for @diorinthe2000s.
Fast-forward to Maison Margiela, where Galliano has manned the helm since 2015, and it's a more subdued affair - the thrill is in seeking these stories out. Galliano's Maison Margiela is glamour redefined. The spectacle is in the subtleties, in the details which must be carefully unpicked and stitched back together anew. The A/W 20 ready-to-wear show deconstructed and re-contextualised uniforms of the bourgeoisie, whilst S/S 20 looked to military coats and nurses caps in the spirit of honouring everyday wartime heroes. Staying true to the spirit of the house, Galliano tells his stories through fabric. The raw edge of a jacket, the iconic Margiela white topstitching, the mainstay hole punches, knife edge tailoring spliced to reveal human skin or stripped back to the lining. Here, the skeleton of a garment is where you find its soul.
This process of deconstruction forms the core of Galliano and Nick Knight's film S.W.A.L.K. Created for the A/W 20 artisanal collection, documentary footage meets fashion film, as imagined ghosts are let out from the seams of the garments, haunting the Margiela atelier. The sound of fabric being ripped ruminates like screams throughout. S.W.A.L.K II followed this past September to present the S/S 21 défile collection. Here unfurled a story of moonlit tango dancers in Buenos Aires, tinged with rumours of murder and finishing with a tableaux of an underwater wedding - surely one of Knight and Galliano's most romantic and spellbinding shots to date.