While Valentino and Fendi’s Spring 2024 presentations hinted that they’re (by and large) continuing the 2023 tradition of “quiet luxury”, at the Maison Artisanal collection, it was anything but. Models descended the catwalk in OTT, Victoriana-inspired ensembles that played on the womanly silhouette that has faded into the background over the past year thanks to a resurgence of the super-skinny aesthetic: waists were cinched to the extremes with corsets, and structured fabric created exaggerated hips and busts.
With models heading down the runway in distressed, oversized belted coats and form-fitting black lace dresses that felt straight off the set of a Tim Burton film, controversial designer John Galliano affirmed that his steampunk-esque vision for the future of fashion still had a woman at its core. In one of the show’s most playful inclusions, sheer fabric framed one model’s crotch, rendering the privates not so private. What were presumably pubic wigs were on full display and fabric was carefully pleated to emulate the look of a hairy downstairs: all in all, no aspect of femininity was left to the imagination. The model’s makeup told a similar story. Looks executed by legend Pat McGrath harked back to Galliano’s signature face back in the mid 2000s: all uber thin eyebrows and shiny skin that transformed the models into dolls.
But what garnered most attention about the Artisanal show was how these looks were delivered to the audience: by way of theatre that felt like an ode to the early (and story-heavy) collections of Alexander McQueen. Opening with a performance by French artist Lucky Love that felt like a deleted scene from Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge (the director was in attendance, of course), what Margiela themselves dubbed a “walk through the underbelly of Paris” saw models almost stumble down the runway, their gloomy ensembles telling stories too dark for the dimly-lit space.
Closing the show was even a performance by actress Gwendoline Christie, who has previously walked for brands including Prada and Vivienne Westwood. Christie emerged on the runway in a latex rubber ball gown, gloves that resembled bandages, and the show’s characteristic glassy skin. Slowly posing her way around the space under Paris’ Pont Alexandre III bridge, you got the impression she wasn’t so much showing off the clothes as presenting herself for a watercolour rendition of the look.
Of course, it isn’t solely Margiela that’s used their Spring 2024 presentation to celebrate the iconography of femininity. Hidden amongst the nautical theme of Simone Rocha’s turn designing for Jean Paul Gaultier was billowing, inherently romantic silhouettes.