«In the fashion landscape, first came haute couture, then the designers, some of whom played a truly pivotal role in their time. While the Japanese may be the first that spring to mind, Martin Margiela also played a significant role. Today, Paris pays the designer a worthy tribute with two exhibitions at the French capital’s two fashion museums.»
Belgian designer Martin Margiela graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. After a few years working with Jean Paul Gaultier, Margiela decided to launch his own brand, which swiftly adopted a set of highly specific codes. The designer took up his mantle as the invisible man of fashion with an atypical and unmistakable breadth of character: no photo, no taking a bow at the end of fashion shows, and a simple blank label sewn with four white threads.
Martin Margiela has made great contributions to the evolution of fashion, redesigning clothing by taking a fresh look at creations of the past. He has rebuilt or replenished by relabelling models of yesterday. Among his war stories: jumpers made from socks taken from military stockpiles, Barbie clothing transposed to a human scale, a collection of restored theatre costumes, and so many more.
He helped popularize oversize (with shock waves still evident today) by using design models produced at size 76.
The designer undertook the recovery and recycling (or rather upcycling) of these models to restore them to their past grandeur, all given a new life at the sole discretion of the creator.
His work features trompe-l’oeil, reconstruction, raw finishes, and more, with his signature white always scattered about his collections. Clothes painted white, as well as boxes, grocery bags—everything at Maison Martin Margiela has gone Meudon white.
As for shoes, Martin Margiela has designed models featuring a separation between the big toe and others, a concept inspired by Japanese tabis.
The designer’s atypical fashion shows also contributed to the forging of the myth. Car parks, abandoned spaces, inside a train, and others—the settings as curious as the greeting from staff in white coats with a glass of wine in hand. Models walk the runway in distorted anonymity, with face often hidden, obscured, or ravaged by a wig, mask, or glasses.
With his handcrafted collection, he flirted with couture that displayed the number of hours needed to create each piece.
After 20 years of fashion and remarkable shows, Martin Margiela at last took a bow and moved on to greener pastures.