Every season, something so wild happens at Paris Fashion Week that it ricochets well beyond the industry’s Instagram-friendly world of exclusivity. That thing arrived on Wednesday, in the form of the finale walk at Maison Margiela. Model Leon Dame, wearing a belted leather jacket with sailor’s striped flap collar, tighty-whities, and knee-high high-heel boots, took a chaotic, energized strut down the runway, and then preened for the cameras in the pit like the camped-up little brother of a legendary ’90s supermodel. His moody glare only added to the appealing strangeness, and video clips made the moment an instantaneous meme. Even Anna Wintour was seen laughing.
The Walk was not the work of Dame alone. Maison Margiela artistic director John Galliano has worked for the past year with Pat Boguslawski, a movement director and former runway model, to choreographs the models’ walks. “John just wants people to be themselves,” Boguslawski said in a phone call from Paris Thursday morning. “The main idea is that he just likes characters. He just likes people who look interesting in general, and have something to say.”
“With Leon,” he continued, “he is just one of these characters who wants to always do something unusual. Obviously, he was closing the show, so I wanted to create something strong. It’s about hope, and about democracy, and freedom. And I just wanted to show all of that in that one look at the end of the show.” It’s “deeper,” he said, “than having a normal model walk.”
He added that any humor was intentional: “I didn’t want to do anything serious. I wanted to do something kind of more...spectacular, you know?” We know!
Boguslawski’s process of developing a great walk is a casual art, derived from each model’s natural movement. Once the models’ looks have been decided, he watches them walk and gives them notes. “I just create stories, and just put them in their heads,” he explained. “So that when they walk on the runway, they just don’t think that they’re presenting the looks.” He might say to them, “‘Imagine this person at the back of the runway, and the person said this or that.’ So when they come on the runway, they have already something on their minds.” He added that, “you can see in their eyes that they’re not empty—there’s something behind.” Margiela has a history of unusual walks: Galliano’s first couture show for the house, Fall 2015, was loaded with wild walks, including a memorable hunchback stalk by a woman in an oversized beret.
Boguslawski has worked with Dame, a Margiela regular, for several seasons now, so this walk was built on “what we created before.” He added that, “For a lot of fashion shows, [it] wouldn’t be right, because [it isn’t] this beautiful, simple model walk. But for Margiela, it’s right. [It’s about] being original.” He told Dame to “show people the freedom we can create as young people,” and to “give the best energy and just show that you can be yourself, and you can be whatever you want to be right now.”
Boguslawski is trained as a dancer and choreographer, and got his start dancing in London, where he also did some modeling. When he was cast in an Alexander McQueen show, designer Sarah Burton pulled him aside to express her gratitude for his incredible walk. “I was just super shocked,” he said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing? I’m just...walking!’” She enlisted him to teach the other models to walk, and after a few more years of dance, including working for Aaron Sillis, who has choreographed for pop stars like Rihanna and Katy Perry, he was eventually enlisted to choreograph an FKA Twigs shoot for Wonderland Magazine. His experience with the McQueen show stuck in his mind, and he began to build a career advising designers and models on their walks.
Nonetheless, he was surprised by the reaction The Walk received. “This is not the first time” he and Dame have created a walk together, after all, but “maybe because this time, it was a bit like, Wow.” He sounded overjoyed to see it take off: “I love that people are laughing because you know, we are doing all of this for fun,” he said. “If I make Anna happy with Leon? Perfect.”