Martin Margiela – the fashion industry’s biggest obsession. The presence of Margiela keeps haunting the industry. An outsider, an enfant terrible of the sales, hype and logo-driven industry, he has chosen to stay reserved and anonymous throughout his career. The sheer number of reports, articles, pop up stores and exhibitions reveals the ongoing, and perhaps constantly growing obsession with this mysterious Belgian fashion designer
Margiela Archive Pop Up Sale was held during Paris Fashion Week earlier this year in March 2017 and now again, just a week ago during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin. In the pop up shop people could acquire samples from Margiela’s archives for (ridiculously) high prices of 500 euro for a silk dress and 850 euro for a pair of Tabi boots. Considering the prices for new luxury goods, the price tag of a 500 euro didn’t seem to be so outrageous – but remember, we are talking here about samples and some private second-hand pieces, many of which were not in their best shape and showed stains and visible traces of use.
Just when we believe we know everything about Margiela, new facts come out, casting light on Margiela’s broad creative input and influence over the fashion industry. Did you know that in October 1997, Margiela was appointed as the artistic director for Women’s ready-to-wear (RTW) collections at Hermès, the Parisian high fashion luxury house? I didn’t know until I visited ‘Margiela, The Hermès Years’ exhibition at the ModeMuseum Antwerp, an exhibition that aims to explore Margiela’s oeuvre from his years of work at Hermès, juxtaposing the Hermès collections to Margiela’s creations for his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. This exhibition is on display at MoMu Antwerp until the 27th of August 2017 and is showing this collection for the very first time.
Margiela remained at the position of creative director for Hermès RTW Womenswear for 6 years, from 1997 to 2003, and created 12 collections altogether. He had three important criteria in mind while designing the collections for Hermès: the highest levels of quality, comfort and timelessness. He then introduced a different logo, and he chose not to work with printed scarves or carrés in his collections, nor even with prints – a very daring idea considering the long tradition and history of Hermès printed scarves. He presented his collections on women of different ages and body types, another rather daring idea in fashion industry of that time.
Margiela designed numerous garments as transformable pieces, which could be worn in various ways. Collections were consequently interchangeable, marking the birth of ‘slow fashion’ before ‘slow fashion’ was introduced as a concept.
Although I may have sounded skeptical towards the beginning of this article regarding the hype for Margiela’s creations, I am not skeptical – rather, I am impressed. Impressed to acknowledge and to recognize how even many recent trends actually exist due to Margiela’s genius.
And here is the reason why everyone who is interested in fashion and in the current state of fashion affairs, so to speak, should make their way to Antwerp to see the exhibition for themselves: while strolling through the exhibition I recognized every single trend from the beginning of nineties to our present days in at least one of Margiela’s pieces. Be it exaggerated shoulders, the way the clothes were presented to the public, down to the choice of models and unusual locations for shows, his influence was there. I also learned that Margiela interned with Jean Paul Gaultier from 1984 to 1987 and upon closer look, I could indeed see Margiela’s subtle references to the French maestro.
Another interesting fact that was only recently introduced to the public is that Margiela set up his label not alone as many believe, but with Jenny Meirens, another mysterious figure in fashion industry. Jenny Meirens is someone we still don’t know much about and who sadly passed away on the 1st of July this year. The Margiela exhibition in Antwerp doesn’t reveal much about Margiela’s female companion; unfortunately the exhibition included no additional information about Meirens. However, this NY Times article by Susannah Frankel does talk about Meirens as the woman behind Margiela. There is also the documentary We Margiela on its way that claims to tell “the untold story of the enigmatic fashion house” of Maison Martin Margiela. It is supposed to feature Jenny Meirens and the members of the creative team talking about “creative processes and unique philosophies of the Maison.” The documentary is scheduled to premiere in 2017.
Another highlight of the Margiela exhibition at MoMu is a series of videos that show Margiela’s Hermès collections, which were co-directed by Margiela himself, according to the official press release. Check out the exhibition to see it for yourself this summer at MoMu in Antwerp.
Words by Veronika Dorosheva
Header Image. Hermès A/W 1998-1999 Vareuse in double-faced cashmere, sleeveless high-neck pullover in cashmere, mid-length skirt in Shetland wool and boots in calfskin, ‘Le vêtement comme manière de vivre’ Le Monde d’Hermès, Photo: John Midgley
1. Maison Martin Margiela A/W 1996-1997, Photo: Anders Erdström
Hermès A/W 1998-1999, Photo: Studio des Fleurs
2. Maison Martin Margiela S/S 2009, Photo: Giovanni Giannoni
Hermès S/S 1999, Photo: Studio des Fleurs
3. By Stany Dederen
4. By Stany Dederen
5. By Stany Dederen
6. By Stany Dederen
7. Maison Martin Margiela A/W 1996-1997, Photo: Marina Faust
8. Hermès S/S 1999 Cardigan in doube-faced crêpe, collarless shirt in Oxford, pants in crêpe and belt ‘Étrivière’ in bridle leather, Le Monde d’Hermès, Photo: Serge Guerand
9. Hermès A/W 2002-2003 Tuxedo over-skirt in silk ottoman from ‘Les Gestuelles’, Photo: Marina Faust
10. Hermès A/W 2001-2002 ‘Jupe enroulée’ from ‘Les Gestuelles’, Photo: Marina Faust
11. Hermès A/W 2001-2002 Double-breasted jacket and pants in wool, sleeveless high-neck pullover in cashmere and silk and muff in kidskin and lambskin, Le Monde d’Hermès, Photo: Ralph Mecke
12. Hermès A/W 2001-2002 Collarless jacket and pants in cashmere and silk, high-neck pullover in cashmere and silk, scarf ‘Losange’ in silk crêpe, Le Monde d’Hermès, Photo: Ralph Mecke
13. Maison Martin Margiela A/W 2000-2001, Photo: Marina Faust
14. Maison Martin Margiela S/S 2009, Photo: Marina Faust
15. Maison Martin Margiela S/S 1996, Photo: Marina Faust
16. Hermès A/W 1998 image of the advertising campaign over-painted by Martin Margiela (Cape Cod watch designed by Henri d’Origny and double-tour strap bracelet created by Martin Margiela), Photo: Thierry Le Goues