The eighteenth-century Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild was the site of the Maison Martin Margiela Spring show today. The white plastic-wrapped interior—with special ventilation to avoid suffocation because it was just like sitting in a plastic bag—gave the impression of something under construction. The ghosts of cherubic excess could just about be made out on the ceiling under all of that wrapping. Michel Gaubert, music maestro for many of the Parisian shows, made a short appearance from backstage. The musical brief? "Abstraction," said Gaubert. So that's one of the reasons the putti were put away.
As the drumbeats of the Pachanga Boys' "Black Naga" began and the hysterical chanting blasted out, this was what you imagined the Dadaists' Cabaret Voltaire to sound like today. The clothing also owed something to Hugo Ball's Dada cone- and cartoonlike performance outfits as well. Abstraction indeed.
Yet the total full-on Dadaist quality of the clothing really came to a crescendo later on in the collection. The first looks were a twisted take on cocktail dresses followed by trouser suiting and exaggerated bustiers. There was also an element of giant Japonisme in the oversized, simplified masculine kimono looks. All of this was perfectly plausible in an exaggerated, everyday way. Then the real fun began with what can only be described as a series of abstract, stiff, simplified versions of the ball gown—they owed something to Dr. Who's Daleks as much as Dada. Crinolines gave these creations shape, while trousers and bodysuits were also worn under them. These are the kind of gowns this reviewer would personally love to see on that last bastion of fashion conservatism: the red carpet.
Maison Martin Margiela should be congratulated for moving on in this collection. In previous outings, the checklist aspect of following the founder's codes has sometimes come across as rote. The Martin-less Maison needs its own signature, and although, like the set, it still seems under construction, this was more of a step toward it.