Martin Margiela may have irrevocably left the Maison, but at least he can rest easy about what they're doing in the house with his name on it. Last season, to the mortification of all who've loved the label, it was as if the studio had been overrun by a bunch of rudderless assistants who got the wrong end of the stick about Margiela's brand of conceptualism. Maybe they'd been traumatized by the internal changes. Now, however, despair among the disappointed faithful has lifted. What appeared on the runway is satisfactorily back on track for Fall.
It's the twisting and exaggeration of the classic canon of dressing that has always made Margiela attractive. This season, that knack resurfaced just in time to rejoin the general fashion agenda as it searches for excitement in the design of coats; the look of tailored pants and knits; and the ongoing tussle over whether a skirt should be long, short, or, there again, neither.
The Margiela overcoat has a new sleeve, widely curved backward in a flattish, geometric way that, after several reiterations in beige leather, red wool, and a gray peacoat, looked groundbreaking and desirable. The contribution to pant design is more experimental. In one instance, it's only an illusion—tailored at the front, tights at the back—but in the other, wide-legged and elegantly cut from menswear fabric, it's almost the most accomplished shape of the season. Take away the wide, stiff, padded waistline (and let's hope they do, when it's delivered at retail), and it could be another in the long tradition of killer pieces that made Margiela such an under-the-radar commercial success among the cognoscenti.
They'll also be making a beeline for the beige or gray turtleneck sweaters: Something about the slightly loose rumple in the neck is perfectly judged for now. Or, while there, they may hover over the idea of investing in a latex T-shirt or pencil skirt (sounds mad, but it has the whiff of the kind of Margiela notion destined to become normalized later down the line). As for the skirts? They were worn either as knee-length pencils trailing sheer panels behind, or as longer chiffon transparencies, a compromise between leg-show and breaking the tedious habit of short and tight.
There was a lot more in this show—the use of velvet, color, and the funny furry headpieces with giant earflaps, for starters—that is certain to be pored over, assimilated, and regurgitated in more accessible ways by others. That in itself potentially puts Maison Martin Margiela back in a position of intellectual leadership, where it belongs. But far more important is the fact that this collection has clicked back into line with what its frustrated, grown-up fan base wants to own right now.