"Men's wardrobe meets the woman's body," read the program notes at Maison Martin Margiela. So far, so straightforward. Which designer in Paris, including Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga yesterday, hasn't explored the masculine side of womenswear at one time or another? And wasn't it Margiela himself, before he left the premises earlier this decade, who triggered the front row's abiding interest in a strong-shouldered jacket?
The show's first look was simple enough at first glance: a crisp blue men's shirt with extra fabric on either side of the sleeves ironed flat. But then, as the model inched her way past, the shirt's radically squared-off back came into view, producing a sort of sandwich-board effect. Margiela fans have embraced more peculiar ideas before, and it's entirely possible that there are still some out there who could get into the idea of a well-cut gray wool jacket with the same stiff arms and planar back, along with pants whose hems seemed glued to the heels of scooped-out platform pumps.
Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this was the show's one big idea, and we mean it when we say big. Toward the end, the entire front of a beaded dress was stretched over a rectangular piece of plastic extending from the model's shoulders to the floor, while the back of the gown was stretched across her form. Really, really? The model before last might've had it toughest, though, her arms trapped at her sides between two wrinkled layers of what could have been patent leather. It looked like she'd been vacuum-packed into a Hefty garbage bag.
The Maison design team set the bar high last season with an outing loaded with want-able clothes. This collection fell flat.