The BoF Podcast | Pat Boguslawski Is the Secret Weapon Behind John Galliano’s Fashion Drama
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“Better to give more than less.” That’s the advice Pat Boguslawski offers to the models in John Galliano’s shows for Maison Margiela. He’s been Margiela’s movement director for the past six or seven years, and if you’re wondering exactly what his job entails, Boguslawski tells all in the latest BoF podcast.
Our conversation arrives in the slipstream of Galliano’s triumphant Artisanal collection shown in moonshadow two weeks ago under the Pont Alexandre III in Paris. It wasn’t only the models who gave more under Mr Pat’s tutelage with their seductive, insinuating theatricality. Galliano and his team scaled heights of wanton creativity unseen in Paris since the late Nineties. Afterwards, Boguslawski was approached by people who told him they hadn’t felt so alive at a fashion show for decades. He thought that was “the biggest compliment.” And he himself was overcome with emotion. He claims he wept for a good minute or so.
It’s a vanishingly rare and precious thing that a fashion show can still have such an effect in an age when the search for sensation has become a wearying circus. The galvanic response suggests there was a hunger for the passion and intensity of Galliano’s vision. It’s been missing in fashion, Boguslawski agrees. Growing up in Warsaw in the Nineties, he had Fashion TV on all day. He pored over the Italian and French editions of Vogue. He knew all about Galliano and McQueen. But as he watched everything turning into product, Boguslawski felt the glorious storytelling diminishing. “Models were only in it for the money, they didn’t care about the clothes.” He didn’t even want to buy Vogue anymore.
He drifted through his teens and early twenties. He started dancing at 15, moved to London to take classes, then studied at the Debbie Reynolds Studio in LA. He DJ-ed, modelled, took four years of acting classes. By 2015, he was back in London, when Sarah Burton singled him out at a McQueen rehearsal as the only model who understood the movement she wanted.
Click! Boguslawski saw a future. He knew nothing about dancers like Stephen Galloway and Les Child who had created substantial careers as movement directors (Galloway directed Miley Cyrus’s performance at the Grammys on Sunday), so it took a few exhausting years of having to explain himself to directors, designers and performers. Misperceptions persist. “Men usually have a problem with me,” Boguslawski acknowledges. “They feel like I’m their competition.”
Assuming it takes time to build the trust that makes a relationship like Cyrus and Galloway’s so fruitful, Boguslawski was fortunate to have an instant bond with Galliano at Maison Margiela. The designer was in the process of creating a tribe of young “muses.” One of them, a chiselled blond Berliner named Leon Dame, was perfect putty in Pat’s hands. He closed Margiela’s Spring 2020 show like Tadzio in black leather, snaking down the catwalk in knee-high spike-heeled boots, the very essence of corrupted innocence. The crowd — and the internet — went mad.
Dame’s homme fatale crystallised the dynamic between Galliano’s vision and Boguslawski’s talent which peaked in the show on January 25. He says his job has gotten easier because Dame’s impact was such that models are more open now. They understand they need to give more. He also had the added bonus of surprise guest/show closer Gwendoline Christie, who brought a wealth of her own drama to the character Galliano and Boguslawski had given her. Even more useful in the circumstances, given the extreme corsetry that shaped the latest collection’s silhouette. He told the models to use any discomfort in their character, but he also counselled the distraction of interaction with the audience. Stare into their eyes! Intimidate them! “I love the adrenaline that comes with that,” Boguslawski says.
Galliano and he polished the presentation for over a week, through the whole process of fitting and styling. That’s about seven days longer than Boguslawski usually gets when he works with a designer. Take Haider Ackerman’s guest designership of Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture collection in January 2023. He had one rehearsal, one moment with 45 models before hair and makeup to infuse them with the glacial elegance of a classic couture photo shoot by the grand masters Avedon and Penn. It was movement direction at its most powerfully minimal, but the concentration also clarified the acting element, which is the clearest distinction between choreography and what Boguslawski does. The soundtrack provided was 10 minutes long. He insisted on another 20, to give the slowly unfolding narrative space. “Music’s the only thing that really inspires me to create movement,” he insists.
So what happens now? I’m imagining an onslaught of offers in the wake of the latest transformative Galliano moment. Boguslawski has just finished a video with Charli XCX. But he wants to keep his focus on fashion, because his sense of what it’s been missing has only been sharpened by what happened on January 25. Now he feels the bar is set almost insurmountably high. And that challenge is real!