Margiela's Movement Director Has No Limits

Margiela's Movement Director Has No Limits

By Andrew NguyenJan 30, 2024

Some runway shows alter the course of fashion history: Thierry Mugler Haute Couture Fall 1995, Alexander McQueen Spring 1999 and now Maison Margiela 2024 Artisanal Collection by John Galliano.

The internet went wild, claiming that "fashion is back." But what does that really mean? For one, it's the construction of the clothes themselves, which were created over 12 months using new techniques developed by Galliano that both honor and evolve true haute couture traditions: Caisetting transforms delicate fabrics such as silk organza with ridges and grooves to resemble corrugated cardboard; retrograding uses thread-work and appliqué like petals, godets, rosettes and ruching to degrade from the bottom to the top of a garment; and milletrage makes lightweight garments look like heavy-duty coats, jackets or trousers by layering of fine fabrics. All the painstaking handwork was done intentionally to imagine a dreamy, rainy and cold night in Paris under the full moon.

What ultimately breathed life into Galliano's world and garments was the way the models moved and interacted with the audience. Simply strutting fiercely down the runway with a deadpan stare they did not. Under the instruction of movement director Pat Boguslawski, who comes from an acting background, the models became characters in the world Galliano dreamed up in Paris' underbelly.

"The main thing was to really make people feel like they are also part of the show — they're not just the audience sitting there looking," Boguslawski tells PAPER. "They were like, 'Oh my god, so there are no limits.' And I was like, 'No, there are no limits. You can just go for it.'"

Resting after a whirlwind of rehearsals and showtime, PAPER caught up with Boguslawski about working with Galliano, bringing acting into fashion, and making the Maison Margiela 2024 Artisanal Collection come alive.

What does a movement director do?

What we do first depends on the job because if you work on a show, you're trying to create a specific runway walk for the collection: the motions, the mood, the acting. It can be proper choreography or a movement, like a feeling — anything that is requested from the director, photographer or designer. I create the movement or the feeling on myself, show it to them and tell them how it needs to be done. Every job can be very different, but my main thing is to make sure that the person on the runway or in front of the camera looks really good, feels super secure and confident, and is having the best time — helping them come out of their comfort zone and push their boundaries.

What did Galliano want for the show?

Obviously, John [Galliano] is the director with all the ideas coming from his mind. He is the master, the genius, the king. But what he expects from me is to teach the model how to perform on the runway and make sure that the flow, the choreography and the movement goes perfectly with the mood he sets.

How did you come up with the movements to embody the mood that he wanted to set?

They were sort of going into this bar on a cold, rainy, full moon night at 5 AM. So it was about feeling super cold and super exhausted, but still very fierce — a little bit moody, but still super graceful. There were so many looks, so I tried to have different emotions and ideas for each look too.

How do you take into account the clothes when you’re directing?

When we were doing fittings, John would be like, “Can you pay attention to this? I want to show this.” We're creating the characters based on what they’re wearing, the makeup, the hair and who they are. Obviously, I have ideas and John has so many ideas, but the main thing is to make the models feel like it’s natural. We want to see them actually feel in the moment the music and the clothes they’re wearing. John also wants the same things from the models and that's why we work pretty well together. I get him and I see what he likes. He also knows how to push me on that. He trusts me. It's a really cool relationship, for sure.

How did you two start working together?

We started working together some time around June 2018. I got in touch with Alexis Roche, the artistic image director at Margiela, and asked him if we could grab a coffee because I wanted to work for Margiela. We met and I showed him my portfolio. I said, “Listen, it's my dream to work for you guys. I really want to do one of your shows.” But he said to me, “I can't promise you anything, but I'm definitely going to show your portfolio to John.” The next couple of days, I received a call that John would like to meet me. I was already back in London because I used to live in London back then, so I had to return to Paris. We had a meeting and the rest is history.

Wow, what was it like to get that call?

It was really crazy. I really believed it was going to happen because I really wanted it, but I remember feeling super stressed and nervous. It felt like a dream meeting him ,so he felt unreal. But I always say that I manifested that job because as a child, he was always my number one. I was always obsessed with his shows and his creativity and his vision. I could always tell that he is the greatest and that there is no one like him. He is the master. We are so privileged to be around him and look at his work and experience his shows. Working with him is just a pure pleasure. I’ve never met anybody in my entire career who is so talented and such a perfectionist.

How are you feeling about all the positive feedback?

If you are passionate about your job and just focusing on doing something, you don't really think about the outcome. You just want to make sure it looks good, it looks real and it's coming from the bottom of your heart. When you do something big like this, it happens so fast and then it's done. Then you're receiving all these beautiful messages with so much love and it's very overwhelming. It's nice to feel appreciated and that you did something that people are going to remember. The most beautiful messages I get are people saying that it made them cry — it made them feel something. That's the coolest thing that you can do, when you're making art to make people feel anything.

The way the models interacted with the audience is so rare in a runway show. Is that something you instructed them to do?

Because we were in this bar, I was like, "We have more freedom. Let's be here and now and be very present in the show — interact with any props on the location," which were tables and chairs. We had lots of different things around and we also had the audience. I studied drama acting in the past, and what is important for actors is when you're doing any monologues or giving a speech, you have to look at something or someone. You can't just talk to the wall. So it was just a natural thing to tell them that since they have this whole audience around, use them, touch them, play with them, look at them, make them feel uncomfortable, try to tell them something, try to give them something. If you see a sexy man, just play with him — put your hand on his shoulder or something. If you feel like you're in the moment, and you want to touch a wall or sit on a chair, smile at a person or create a pose, just do it 100 percent.

The fact that you have an acting background makes so much sense.

That's why maybe I do my movement direction quite differently from choreographers because my background is not only dancing. I started with a lot of amazing actors in Poland and I look at it from a different sort of perspective. Even working with Gwendolyn [Christie] on her character and her walk, it was very easy for me to have that conversation with her because she's an actor, and I knew how to communicate that with her and make her understand what her walk is about.

What did you tell her?

I can't tell you, I would give you everything. But we had a really cool meeting and we spoke about her work. We created a persona in her head, which was incredible. She's one of the coolest people I've ever worked with in my whole career. It’s so great to work with someone who's extremely talented but at the same time, super nice. Grounded. She killed it.

Photos courtesy of Maison Margiela