the special effects of Maison Margiela

“Engine! In the blink of an eye, on the stage, silence falls. All that remains is soft and high-pitched music, similar to that of certain mobiles to rock children, produced by pieces of glass, hung on the outfits and which collide when the models move. This Tuesday evening in June, we are shooting, in a studio in Saint-Denis, a scene from the dreamlike film that Maison Margiela created to present its latest haute couture collection, Artisanal, put online on July 8.

In front of a luminous screen 18 meters long by 6.5 meters high which projects the desolate setting of a beach under an apocalyptic glowing sky, a dozen models move slowly, then take poses in front of Olivier Dahan’s camera, director. The sequence evokes a sort of nightmare, out of time.

Creative Director of Maison Margiela, John Galliano is there, of course, hair tied up, in wide red shorts and destroyed mesh, affable and curious behind his combo, checking out the effect the cardboard face masks have. animals (fox, ram, lamb, etc.) worn by the models. “To give the impression that they had been made by children, some masks were almost more technical to make than couture clothes! “, he has fun.

Several takes are necessary to multiply the shots on the details of the sophisticated outfits imagined by Galliano: rococo jackets with burnt sleeves, royal blue baggy pants, large deconstructed and fringed dress, patent clogs, pair of high Tabi… “It’s a film without dialogue in which the main characters are above all the haute couture pieces. I try to film them, especially not like movie costumes, but like sculptures, with all the vocabulary at my disposal: still shots, slowed down, accelerated… ”, says Olivier Dahan.

An ambitious poetic video instead of a parade: Galliano’s desire takes shape. “The synopsis and the collection are totally intertwined, in the same movement, a permanent ping-pong: we added both textile research according to the story and the pieces so that it fits the story. ” The latter focuses on a fisherman and his wife, surrounded by villagers, whom we follow in three eras: the XVIIIe century (which Galliano worships), the 1920s, the contemporary era. Three periods that end symbolically connected by a map that will be seen on the screen but also, for example, on a patchwork sweatshirt inspired by Delft tiles.

To illustrate his designs (“Getting into my head requires a little effort”, he admits), Galliano, one day in May, asked Olivier Dahan with whom he had worked on an advertisement for Dior in 2009. “I was strolling in the south of France, we chatted by Skype. Three days later, I started ”, relates the filmmaker. The production first scouts to find majestic scenery of beaches, cliffs, plans to go and shoot in Brittany. But the difficulty of moving the team (150 people), the uncertain weather and the night sequences lead to try another experience: shoot on a virtual set.

During the shooting of the film dedicated to the Maison Margiela haute couture collection.

Experienced abroad, especially by the Disney series The Mandalorian, linked to the universe of Star Wars, this is the first time in France this technique has been used for a feature film. The process? A large LED screen projects an artificial setting – a sunset, a stormy sky, an interior – which moves following the exact movement of the camera. Thus we have the illusion that the models are immersed in a distant place, even in a painting – certain paintings by Millet or Vermeer have served as sources of inspiration.

“It works fully on the condition of having a good decorator, a good cinematographer, a good artistic direction”, explains Dahan. “This also allows models, who are not professional actors, to project themselves into the atmosphere visible on the screen and not to be right in front of a green background”, welcomes Galliano, who enjoys chatting with the models between takes.

Twelve days of filming were necessary for the shots. “Everything must be on the line so that the clothes and the story are truly embraced”, emphasizes Galliano, who will also be seen on screen explaining his intentions and who is overflowing with enthusiasm at the idea of ​​presenting his work in a new form. “With this tool, all my fantasies become possible! The cinema is 100 years old, the fashion show 60: these are baby formats, not fixed. Personally, although I understand that some people lack the physical dimension, I don’t see myself going back to the classic seven-minute show: it now seems old-fashioned to me. The whole challenge for the next few seasons is going to be to combine the two, the physical and the film. And to reinvent itself. ”

Maison Margiela Artisanal collection by John Galliano, film directed by Olivier Dahan, to see on

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