The story behind the Haute Couture creation worn by Björk on Vogue Scandinavia's latest cover

By Clare McInerney

The dress caused waves when unveiled as part of Maison Margiela's SS24 Haute Couture collection, in a runway spectacle that will go down in the fashion history books for its seismic impact

Sauntering slowly through hazy smoke and dimmed lights within the underbelly of Pont Alexandre III, a figure appears. Her tulle dress hugs exaggerated hourglass curves owing to a silk cincher and silicon hip prosthetics, her face is swathed in embroidered tulle to create a blurred visage with blackened eyes, inspired by the portraits of Fauvist artist Kees van Dongen. Gradually, more details of the model's form come into focus for the mesmerised onlookers, revealing a nude illusion complete with a ‘merkin’ wig – fashioned from real human hair painstakingly embroidered to the crotch of an underlaid silk tulle stocking bodysuit.

Though widely recognised as a stand-out ensemble, this particular dress was just one of a line-up of looks conceived and meticulously crafted via the visionary mind of John Galliano for Maison Margiela's spring '24 Haute Couture presentation held this January in Paris. The show was dubbed by the house as the ‘Artisanal Collection’ and described as capturing “a moment in time: a walk through the underbelly of Paris, offline”, evoking a range of grittily convincing characters teetering and skulking by the Seine, many of which seemed to be at the tail end of a debauchorous evening. And, this particular dress was one which, with rare permission granted from Galliano himself, was worn by the one and only Björk for the latest cover of Vogue Scandinavia.

Photo: @maisonmargiela

Photo: @maisonmargiela

With its stirring theatrics, hypnotic choreography and overall ability to transport (a quality which many believed to be left in the past with the runways of the '90s), it comes as no surprise that Maison Margiela's show was met with the greatest hype of the season. The internet was immediately awash with any and every documented moment from the show, with many viewers poring and speculating over the products used for the glassy, porcelain makeup effect created at the hands of Dame Pat McGrath.

The voyeuristic spectacle was one thing, but the clothes were another altogether. A year in the making, the proportions of the silhouettes and display of womanhood offered a celebration of the female form not commonly witnessed in a Haute Couture showcase.

Galliano's sketches of the ground-breaking Haute Couture runway look . Photo: @mayasieron

Björk's ensemble (worn by model Maya Sierón on the runway) with its artful Van Dongen inspiration, was one of Galliano's “three painted muses” within the collection. The trio of "muses” were all embellished with the merkin of human hair, but Sierón has since shared in an interview with Nasty that it was a somewhat last-minute addition for this look. “Probably 30 minutes before the show, a lady came up to me and started kneeling under me and sewing pubic hair to my jumpsuit. I saw that the other girls had a merkin from the beginning, but I thought that my outfit was already ready – it turned out not to be the case.”

As well as contributing to the celebration of womanhood, the merkin detail also tied into grittier aspects of the runway's dark Parisian mood – with sex workers historically slipping on the pubic wig to cover up signs of disease, or after shaving their own hair to combat lice.

Björk wears the Maison Margiela Haute Couture creation on the latest cover of Vogue Scandinavia.

Galliano's latest Haute Couture showcase has no doubt served as an introduction to Maison Margiela for a younger, internet audience, but Bjork's admiration for the Belgian-founded, Parisian-based fashion house goes back decades. As she remarks in her interview with Vogue Scandinavia, Björk had actually worn Margiela pieces from her own wardrobe for the cover of her solo album Debut in 1993. “We actually all got super mushy at the fashion shoot,” she admits. “When I put on the Margiela dress, and I slipped on the prosthetic hips, it seemed such a full circle moment. It was such a profound thing. I am so honoured to have gotten to wear this garment.”

History-making fashion magic, worthy of the forever spellbinding Björk.