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The Iconic Porcelain Doll Runway: Maison Margiela Spring 2024 Couture

Porcelain Dolls by Sofia Oster of Olivia Schotthoefer, Auset Pope and Ella Bussa/Styled by Emily Stabile/Hair and Makeup by Skylar Medes/Directed by Marisa Fisher/Graphic Design by Lauren Fulk

By: Jaden Merimee

In a scene setting off brokenness, wander and expression, models appear as porcelain dolls and stammer down the runway at the Spring 2024 fashion week in Paris. The inspiration evoked Brassai’s 1920s and ’30s portraits of the dark hours in the underbelly of Paris.

Starting with a short black and white film exhibiting a sensation of crime, lust, drama and darkness, it sets the runway show with Leon Dame running from the screen to the scene. Rushing into the alley marking the starting runway, model Leon Dame wears nothing but a glossed face, a low-cut corset and a pair of trousers as he commences the scene of Maison Margiela’s haute collection with intensity.

One by one, models appear in padded hips, corsets, trench coats, sheer dresses, hairy underwear and more. With each starting turn on the runway, models flood into a dark and wet alleyway under the Pont Alexandre III bridge and proceed downstairs toward the inside looks of a 1920s dive bar.

With a variety of eye-catching looks, each model is a character posed in their own unrevealed story.

Some models swung low with a closed trench coat lurking on the runway, while others led exposed with their head high. Some models walked fully covered while clutching onto their sweaters with their arms held tightly across their chests.

Each of the 44 looks had its own dynamic and level of confidence, not one generic. Each walk contrasted the other. While it’s perceived they all embodied different 1920s societal class, one by one they all headed toward the bar on the outskirts of Paris.

While some models staggered, others strutted. Select models dressed lavishly yet others dressed more impoverished. Each element on the models was carefully chosen by the designer John Galliano, who held tightly to the story. Every walk tells a story, and every story invokes a message. Each character, each doll, had something broken about them that could be seen and felt.

“When I saw the collection, I saw quite how beautiful it was,” Gwendoline Christie, a model in the show, said to Vogue. “The innovation, the fabrics, the narrative, the storytelling, the emotion, when I saw all of those things it connected back to what his work has brought me.”

With the jaw-dropping display in front of them, the crowd couldn’t put their phones away. Each model drew in snapshots from numerous screens. The show caught the audience's eye but captured the hearts of the internet.

The buzz of the show left many people wanting to know how this doll look was created. After numerous requests, makeup artist Pat McGrath revealed her skill on Instagram Live. This look entailed several layers of mixing peel-off masks, water and gels while airbrushing and blow drying. Pat McGrath told Vogue she was shocked and that it was heartwarming and beautiful to see the world become obsessed with trying to make her glass skin look.

“John showed me this porcelain doll and said, ‘I would love to take it to glass skin,’ so instantly I knew we were going to have to find something completely new and different, I knew we were going to have to take it there,” McGrath said in the interview.

When it came to finding the location, in Pont Alexandre III, Galliano said to Vogue he was denied multiple times to do his show, but it only made him want the place more.

“The idea that we’d invite our guests to this fantastic address and then take them downstairs to this dank kind of underbelly under the bridge with the sound of the river, the ebb and flow, and that muffled sound of cars and people above the bridge,” Galliano said. “It was like the audio that I needed for my characters.”

With all the attention, emotion, and fascination the show captured, one question arises. What does Galliano plan to invoke next?

“You know what was amazing was that a few of my friends said, ‘Gwen imagine all those kids being inspired by Galliano’s show like we were growing up and the impact that had on us,’” Christie said to Vogue. “Imagine it happening again.”

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