Watch Nick Knight’s New Maison Margiela Film in Full

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S.W.A.L.K. by Maison Margiela and Nick Knight(Film still)

The newly released film documents the creation of the house’s latest Artisanal collection, giving an unprecedented glimpse into John Galliano’s working progress

Last Wednesday – during the first ever digital couture week – Maison Margiela released a teaser of S.W.A.L.K., a short film by seminal image-maker Nick Knight which would showcase the house’s latest Artisanal collection, a co-ed offshoot of the label which operates akin to other houses’ haute couture collections. In it, model Leon Dame – who rose to viral runway fame after his memorable walk at a previous Maison Margiela show – appears once again on the Margiela runway, captured via a thermal-imaging camera.

Yesterday, Maison Margiela premiered the full film, a not-so-short 50-minute experimental documentary which takes the viewer inside the house’s usually secretive atelier to see how creative director John Galliano constructed the collection while in lockdown. Created by Knight using myriad methods befitting the Covid-19 restrictions – Zoom footage, GoPro body cams and even a drone – it was a superlative collaborative effort which pushed the digital presentation into new realms. The house itself wanted it to feel like a “thriller”; its title standing for “sealed with a loving kiss”, an acronym used by soldiers during the war to sign off communications to loved ones.

“Creative director John Galliano detects in times of uncertainty a desire for transparency: a new consciousness clarified by the illumination of the creative process and the human values it represents,” reads a statement from the house. “Through the voyeuristic format of film, image-maker Nick Knight captures the euphoria and melancholia of the genderless artisanal practice. It unravels through the grammar of the thriller in a narrative story under the acronymic title of S.W.A.L.K.

So we see Galliano on a Zoom call with Knight, explaining his ongoing fixations at Maison Margiela, “ancestral hand-me-downs as inspirations, dressing in haste, the anonymity of the lining”; screen recordings as the team share images of Galliano’s archive of Blitz Kid clothing from the 1980s; rushed Google Chats between staff members as they try to locate a vintage matchbox, dating back to the time when the atelier building was a nightclub; flashing images of Galliano’s Spring 1986 Fallen Angels collection, whereby models were doused with water before they walked the runway. “We’re trying to create that without water,” Galliano said of the self-reference. “That is the highest form of dressmaking.” (In the resulting collection, he achieves it with use of sheer ‘thermacollant’ fabric, cut to cling and drape on the body as if damp.)

Then, as the collection takes form, footage of the atelier at work, some filmed by the team from their homes; a Zoom call with Pat McGrath to discuss make-up; hair tests with Eugene Souleiman. “It’s been a whole new, exhilarating process,” Galliano told American Vogue’s Sarah Mower. “I think today we want to see real, too. I asked my kids to start filming themselves on iPads at the beginning of the pandemic. They were expressing 3D experiments in cutting on their kitchen tables, on their terraces, in their garages. So really that’s how it started.” He said he wanted it to feel “voyeuristic” – “[reflecting] ideals of transparency, connectivity and inclusion key to our collective present experience,” as the accompanying notes read. Other footage of the collection in motion was captured by Knight in the Cotswolds under lockdown conditions earlier this year. 

Of the collection itself, Galliano returned to the idea of circular cutting, a technique the designer used while at both his eponymous label and as creative director for Dior and which he relates to the New Romantic era, creating a series of diaphanous bias-cut gowns which draped and twisted around the body (a similar sense of lightness was achieved in chiffon leggings, veils and hoods). Other pieces were made under the maison’s ‘Recicla’ line – whereby garments are made from upcycled and repurposed vintage clothing – seeing classic menswear tailoring spliced into bold new forms, evoking “the resourceful and escapist energy of the New Romantics in 1980s’ London”.

Watch the film below.